Research

The Tightrope Dancers

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Boiling is a process most of us don’t pay much attention to. But it can be remarkably entertaining and beautiful. This award-winning video shows boiling on and around a heated wire immersed in oil. Depending on the diameter of the wire and the power used to heat it, the researchers observe several different regimes of behavior. In one, vapor bubbles form on the wire and interact with one another: bouncing, merging, and dancing back and forth. When the bubbles become large enough, their buoyancy lifts them upward. In another regime, the wire is hot enough for film boiling. Like the Leidenfrost effect, film boiling occurs when a surface is so hot that it instantly vaporizes any liquid near it. The vapor layer then acts like coating, insulating the remaining liquid from the hot surface. The bubbles formed on the wire in this regime are mesmerizing, rising in periodic patterns or shifting back and forth gobbling up lesser bubbles. (Video credit: A. Duchesne et al.)

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