Research

Surfing on Vapor

Place a drop of liquid on a surface much, much hotter than the liquid’s boiling point, and the portion of the drop that impacts will vaporize immediately. This leaves the droplet hovering on a thin layer of vapor. With a fluid like water, the vapor state is a much more efficient insulator than the liquid state. Thus, the vapor layer actually protects the liquid droplet, enabling it to boil off at a much slower rate than if the drop were touching the heated surface. This is known as the Leidenfrost effect, and it can be used to create self-propelled droplets.  (Image credit: R. Thévenin and D. Soto)

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