Viscous Fingers

Viscous fingers form between air and titanium dioxide sol-gel in this photograph. The two fluids are trapped in a thin gap between glass plates – a set-up known as a Hele-Shaw cell. The dendritic fingers we see form when the less viscous air pushes into the more viscous sol-gel. This is an example of the Saffman-Taylor instability. The psychedelic colors are a result of thin-film interference and the way light interacts with very thin materials. The same effect is responsible for the colors on soap bubbles. (Image credit: C. Trease)

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