Research

Liquid Fragmentation

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From spilling coffee to driving through puddles, our daily lives are full of examples of liquids fragmenting into drops. A recently published study describes how this break-up occurs and predicts what the distribution of droplet sizes will be for a given fluid. Viscoelasticity is the property that governs this droplet size distribution. Viscoelasticity describes two aspects of a fluid–its viscosity, which acts like internal friction, resisting motion–and its elasticity, the fluid’s ability to return to its original shape after stretching. Most fluids have a little bit of each of these properties, which makes them somewhat sticky, both in the sense of not-flowing-easily and in the sense of sticking-to-itself. These same properties cause viscoelastic fluids to wind up with a broader droplet size distribution, ultimately creating both more small droplets and more large droplets than a Newtonian liquid like water. (Video credit: MIT News; research credit: B. Keshavarz et al.; submitted by mrvmt)

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