Research

Dissolving Candy

In nature, solid surfaces often evolve over time in conjunction with the flows around them. This is how stalactites, canyons, and hoodoos all form and change over time. Here researchers examine a surface formed from hard candy that is dissolving from below. Over time, the initially flat surface develops a pitted appearance (top image, scale bar is 1 cm) with roughness that is approximately 1 mm in scale. Flow visualization (bottom row) suggests that these pits result from local flow where narrow, millimeter-sized dense plumes fall away from the surface. 

As material dissolves from the candy, it forms a dense layer of sugar-water mixture near the solid surface. Once that layer grows to a critical thickness, it will be too unstable for viscosity to counter. At that point, the Rayleigh-Taylor instability takes over, causing the dense sugar-water layer to break up into narrow, sinking plumes. Although each area is evolving independently, the rate at which material dissolves is uniform everywhere, so the dissolving body retains the same shape over time. (Image and research credit: M. Davies Wykes et al., source)

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