Growing Fingers

Branching, tree-like structures are found throughout nature. Take a thin layer of a viscous fluid pressed between two glass plates and inject a less viscous fluid like air and you’ll get branch-like structures. These are the result of the Saffman-Taylor instability and usually result in a fairly random outcome because of the instability’s sensitivity to small variations. In a new study, researchers use multiple air injection ports to finely control the formation and growth of air fingers, allowing them to build well-ordered branching structures like the one above. By placing the air ports in an array, the same technique can be used to create fluid meshes. The authors suggest this new technique could have wide-ranging applications including the design of heat exchangers and the growth of artificial tissues. (Image and research credit: T. ul Islam and P. Gandhi, source)

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