Self-Propelling Drops

Droplets of acetone deposited on a bath of warm water can float along on a Leidenfrost-like vapor layer. The droplets are self-propelling, too, thanks to interactions between the acetone and water. Acetone can dissolve in water, and when acetone vapor beneath the drop gets absorbed into the water bath, it lowers the local surface tension. That drop in surface tension creates a pull in the direction of a higher surface tension; this is what is known as the Marangoni effect. Because of that flow in the direction of higher surface tension, the acetone drop accelerates away. (Image credit: S. Janssens et al., source)

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