Using Electric Fields to Avoid Dripping

Pink paint dripping after spreading with a roller.

Anyone who’s painted a room at home is familiar with the frustration of drips. At certain inclinations, practically every viscous liquid develops these gravity-driven instabilities. They’re troublesome in manufacturing as well, where viscous films are often used to coat components and unexpected drips can ruin the process.

To avoid this, researchers are adding electric fields into the mix. For dielectric fluids — liquids sensitive to electric fields — this addition acts like extra surface tension, stabilizing the film and preventing drips from forming. The researchers’ mathematical models predict the electric field strength necessary for a given fluid layer depending on its inclination. (Image credit: stux; research credit: R. Tomlin et al.; via APS Physics)

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