Drops that impact a very hot surface will surf on their own vapor, and ones that hit a very cold surface will freeze almost immediately. But what happens when the temperature differences aren’t so extreme? Scientists explored this (above) by dropping room-temperature water droplets onto a cool surface – one warmer than the freezing point but cooler than the dew point at which water condenses.
They found that impacting drops formed a triple halo of condensate (right). The first and brightest ring forms at the radius of the drop’s maximum extent during impact. The second band forms from water vapor that leaves the droplet at impact. As that vapor cools, it condenses into a second band. The final, dimmest band forms as the droplet stabilizes and cools. It’s the result of water vapor near the droplet continuing to cool and condense. (Image and research credit: Y. Zhao et al.; via Nature News; submitted by Kam-Yung Soh)