Research

Electric Coiling

A falling jet of viscous fluid–like honey or syrup–will often coil. This happens when the jet falls quickly enough that it gets skinnier and buckles near the impact point. Triggering this coiling typically requires a jet to drop many centimeters before it will buckle. In many manufacturing situations, though, one might want a fluid to coil after a shorter drop, and that’s possible if one applies an electric field! Charging the fluid and applying an electric field accelerates the falling jet and induces coiling in a controllable manner. 

An especially neat application for this technique is mixing two viscous fluids. If you’ve ever tried to mix, say, food coloring into corn syrup, you’ve probably discovered how tough it is to mix viscous substances. But by feeding two viscous fluids through a nozzle and coiling the resulting jet, researchers found that they could create a pool with concentric rings of the two liquids (see Figure C above). If you make the jet coil a lot, the space between rings becomes very small, meaning that very little molecular motion is necessary to finish mixing the fluids. (Image credits: T. Kong et al., source; via KeSimpulan)

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