Gathering Droplets

Droplets on a cone move toward its base due to surface tension.

In deserts around the world, plants have adapted to collect as much moisture as they can. Geometry aids them in this endeavor because droplets on the tip of a cone will move toward its thicker base. The motion takes place due to a imbalance in surface tension forces on either end of the droplet.

As the droplet moves up a cone, it changes shape from a barrel-like drop that fully covers the conical surface to a clamshell-shaped droplet that hangs only from the bottom of the cone. (Image and research credit: J. Van Hulle et al.)

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