Research

Soap Film Catenoid

Even very simple fluid systems can have surprising complexity. What you see here is a catenoid – the hourglass-like soap film that forms between two rings. In this case, the space in the center of the catenoid has a secondary film separating the top and bottom halves of the catenoid. When the rings are pulled apart, the waist of the catenoid and the secondary film inside it collapse. The secondary film gets thicker as its diameter decreases. (The fluid has to go somewhere, after all.) As the film thickens, the pressure inside it rises, eventually pushing some of the fluid out through the catenoid. This is what causes the fingers flowing down the lower half of the catenoid in the bottom two images. (Image and research credit: R. Goldstein et al.)

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