Drip food coloring into water and you can often see a torus-shaped vortex ring after the drop’s impact. That vortex rings form during droplet impact has been well known for over a century, but only recently have we begun to understand the process that leads to that vortex ring. Part of the challenge is that the vortex formation is very small and very fast, but recent work with x-ray imaging has allowed experimentalists to finally capture this event.
When a drop impacts a pool, surface tension draws some of the pool liquid up the sides of the drop. At the same time, the impact causes ripple-like capillary waves down the sides of the drop. This causes pool liquid to penetrate sharply into the drop, triggering the spirals that mark the forming vortex ring. When drops impact with even higher momentum, multiple vortex spirals can form, as seen on the lower right image. The authors observed as many as four rings during an impact. For more, check out the (open access) article. (Image and research credit: J. Lee et al., source)