Research

Breaking Up Drops

Lots of applications – from rocket engines to ink jet printing – require breaking large droplets into smaller ones, so there are many methods to do this. Some techniques rely on fluid instabilities, others use ultrasonic vibration. But one of the most effective methods may also be the simplest: placing a mesh between large drops and their target.

That’s the idea at the heart of this new study, which uses a wire mesh to break large droplets into a spray of finer ones 1000 times smaller. The target application is agricultural spraying, and the researchers argue that their method would allow farmers to treat their crops effectively with fewer chemicals and less run-off. Drops impacting the mesh form a narrow cone over the plant, and the smaller, slower droplets are better at sticking to the plant instead of bouncing away. They’re also less likely to injure crops, since they don’t disturb the leaves the way larger drops do. (Image and research credit: D. Soto et al.; via MIT News; submitted by Omar M.)

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