Pearls On a Puddle

Leave a drop of coffee sitting on a surface and it will leave behind a ring of particulates once the water evaporates. But what happens to a droplet made up of multiple liquids that evaporate differently? That’s the subject of this new study. Researchers mixed a volatile drop (isopropyl alcohol) with a smaller amount of a non-volatile liquid and observed how this changed the droplet’s splash rim and evaporation pattern.

When the surface tension difference between the two liquids was large, the researchers found that the splash formed fingers along its rim (Image 1). The fingers consist almost entirely of the non-volatile component, driven to the outskirts of the drop by Marangoni forces. The dark and light bands you see in the image are interference fringes, which the researchers used to track the film’s thickness.

When the researchers used liquids with similar surface tensions, the droplet rim instead formed pearl-like satellite droplets. Once the volatile liquid evaporated away, the remaining liquid merged into a thick film. (Image and research credit: A. Mouat et al.; via APS Physics; submitted by Kam-Yung Soh)

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