Rim Break-Up

A drop impacts a post, forming a splash with a rim that breaks up

Splashing drops often expand into a liquid sheet and spray droplets from an unstable rim. Although this behavior is key to many natural and industrial processes, including disease transmission and printing, the physics of the rim formation and breakup has been difficult to unravel. But a new paper offers some exciting insight into this unsteady process. 

The researchers found that if they carefully tracked the instantaneous, local acceleration and thickness of the rim, it always maintained a perfect balance between acceleration-induced forces and surface tension. That means that even though different points on the rim appear very different, there’s a universality to how they behave. They found that this rule held over a remarkably large range of situations, including across fluids of different viscosities and splashes on various surfaces. (Image and research credit: Y. Wang et al.; via MIT News; submitted by Kam-Yung Soh)

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