Research

A Star Drop

There are many ways to make a droplet oscillate in a star-shape – like vibrating its surface or using acoustic waves to excite it – but these methods involve externally forcing the droplet’s oscillation. Leidenfrost drops – liquids levitating on a film of their own vapor caused by the extremely hot surface below – turn themselves into stars. It all starts with the constant evaporation driven by the heat below. This creates a thin, fast-moving layer of vapor flowing beneath the drop. That vapor shears the drop, causing capillary waves – essentially ripples – that travel through the drop in a characteristic way. Those ripples in turn cause pressure oscillations in the vapor layer, alternately squeezing and releasing it. Feedback from the vapor layer then drives the droplet into star-shaped oscillations. Under the right conditions, water drops can form stars with as many as 13 points! (Image and research credit: X. Ma and J. Burton, source)

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