Controlling Leidenfrost Drops

On a surface much hotter than their boiling point, droplets can surf on a layer of their own vapor due to the Leidenfrost effect. Recent research has shown that textured surfaces like ratchets can create corrals, traps, and mazes for such droplets. Here, researchers manipulate the propulsion of Leidenfrost drops using non-parallel grooves instead. When placed between two non-parallel plates, the droplet is squeezed by side forces perpendicular to the walls, with the resultant force in the direction where the gap widens. In most states, friction forms an opposition to this squeeze, but for Leidenfrost droplets that frictional force is negligible. Instead, the squeezing from the plates launches droplets toward the wider end of the groove, allowing researchers to design repellers (top) and traps (bottom) for the fast-moving drops. (Image credits: C. Luo et al., source)

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