Research

Leaping Droplets

Many fungi use coalescing water droplets to launch and spread their spores. The process is recreated in the laboratory in the animation above. Initially, there is a small spherical drop and a second, flattened drop stuck to the backside of the spore. In the animation, the large object on the right is actually both spore and droplet. The spore is spherical on one side and flattened on the other and starts out tipped up on its edge. When the spherical drop gets large enough to reach the flattened drop, they merge. This reduces the total surface area of the drop and thus releases some surface energy. It’s that surface energy that drives the spore’s jump. Even launching just a centimeter away from the host fungus is enough for a breeze to carry the spore further, allowing the fungus to reproduce.  (Image and research credit: F. Liu et al., source; submitted by Kam-Yung Soh)

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