Breaking Up Is(n’t) Hard to Do

A liquid jet breaks into droplets.

Engineers often need to break a liquid jet up into droplets. To do so quickly, they surround the jet with a ring of fast-moving air in a set-up known as a coaxial jet. Shear between the gas and liquid creates instabilities that quickly distort the jet’s initial cylinder into sheets and ligaments. Those formations then undergo their own instabilities to break up into drops. The method is, as you can see in the high-speed images above, quite effective, though the breakup mechanism itself is tough to quantify. (Image credit: G. Ricard et al.)

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