A Molecular View of Boiling

All matter is made up of molecules. But most of the time we treat fluids as materials with given properties – like density, viscosity, and surface tension – without worrying about the individual molecules responsible for those material characteristics. Now that we have much more powerful computers, though, we can begin to simulate fluid behavior in terms of molecules.

The animations above show some examples of this. In the top animation, we see a gas condensing into a liquid. As the temperature decreases, molecules start clumping together, and eventually settle into a droplet on the solid surface. The lower animation shows the opposite situation – boiling – in which bubbles of vapor nucleate next to the solid surface and grow as more liquid changes phase. To see more examples, including droplets pinching off, check out the full video.   (Image credit: E. Smith et al., source; submitted by O. Matar)

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