Freezing Drop Impact

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At the altitudes where aircraft fly, it’s often cold enough for water drops to freeze in seconds or less. Once attached to a wing, such frozen drops disrupt the flow, reducing lift and increasing drag. To help understand how such droplets freeze, scientists study droplet impact on cold surfaces. Starting at room temperature (counter-clockwise from upper left), a drop will spread on the surface, then retract. When the temperature is colder, parts of the droplet freeze before retraction completes, leaving a thin sheet with a thicker center. At even colder temperatures, the droplet’s rim destabilizes and freezing occurs before the droplet has time to retract fully. And at the coldest temperatures, the droplet breaks apart into a frozen splash. (Image and video credits: V. Thievenaz et al.)

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