Drying Out

GFM Poster showing worm-like patterns formed by drying gels

Look closely at old paintings, and you’ll notice arrays of tiny, straight cracks that form as the paint dried. This sort of pattern formation during drying is not unusual. Here we see the patterns formed when a thin layer of hydrogel sandwiched between two glass plates dries. As the water evaporates, stress builds at the interface between the air and gel, causing bubbles to form. The bubble size and shape depend on the size on the gap between the plates and the characteristics of the gel. The resulting patterns can be entirely disordered, or they can form worm-like designs that curl throughout the domain. (Image and research credit: R. Pic et al.)

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