Growing Droplets on a Trampoline

Droplets on a liquid surface will typically coalesce, thanks to gravity and the low viscosity of the air layer between them and the pool. In certain cases, droplets will partially coalesce, producing smaller and smaller droplets until they finally coalesce completely. Vibrating the liquid surface can help prevent this coalescence but only when droplets are small.

In fact, if the pool is more viscous than the droplets, bouncing can be used to produce droplets of a desired size, as shown above. Because the droplets are less viscous, they deform more than the pool does – behaving somewhat like a bouncy ball hitting a rigid wall. In this system, large droplets are unstable and will undergo partial coalescence until they are small enough to bounce stably. The size of stable drops is determined by the frequency and acceleration of the bouncing bath; by tuning these parameters, researchers can select what size droplets they want to end up with. (Research credit: T. Gilet et al.; images and submission by N. Vandewalle)

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