Research

Floating on a Granular Raft

A thin layer of hydrophobic particles dispersed at an oil-water interface is strong enough to prevent a water droplet from coalescing. The researchers refer to this set-up as their granular raft. As the red-dyed water droplet gets larger (top row), it deforms the raft more and more, but the grains continue to keep the drop separate from the fluid beneath (middle row). When water is removed from the droplet, wrinkles form on the raft as the drop’s volume shrinks. This is because the contact line – where the droplet, grains, and air meet – is pinned. The grains already touching the drop are held there by adhesion. But since the drop is shrinking, the area on the raft has to shrink, too – thus wrinkles! (Photo credits: E. Jambon-Puillet and S. Protiere, original)

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