Boiling with Sound

Ultrasonic vibrations can boil nanoscale liquid layers, according to a new simulation-based study. Above you see a layer of water initially about 2 nm thick. When the surface it’s on vibrates at frequencies in the 100 GHz range – about a billion times faster than a hummingbird flaps – it superheats the thin layer of water. In this case, the film undergoes nucleate boiling, forming the same kinds of bubbles you see when boiling a pot of water. When the water layer gets too thin to support nucleate boiling, it stops boiling but evaporation continues. The transition occurs when van der Waals forces become significant. The technique only works with ultrathin layers of a liquid, but the authors envision broad application possibilities in industry as well as in micro- and nano-scale fluid systems. (Image and research credit, and submission: R. Pillai et al.)

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