When Jets Collide

Two liquids that collide don’t always coalesce. The image above shows two jets of silicone oil colliding. On the left, the jets collide and bounce off one another. On the right, at a slightly higher flow rate, the two jets coalesce. This bouncing, or noncoalescence, observed at lower speeds is due to an incredibly thin layer of air separating the two jets. This air layer is constantly being replenished by air that gets dragged along by the flowing oil. But if the oil flows too quickly, that air layer becomes unstable–in the same way that a droplet that falls too quickly will splash on impact. When the separating air layer becomes unstable and breaks down, the jets collide and merge. (Image credit: N. Wadhwa et al., pdf)

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