Driven From Equilibrium

Under an electric field, two dissimilar oils form wild droplet lattices.

With the right application of force, liquids can take on shapes that defy our intuition. Here researchers sandwiched two immiscible oils between glass slides and applied an electric field. Because the two oils have different electrical responses, charges build along the interface between them. These charges lead to non-trivial electrohydrodynamic flows and a multitude of bizarre shapes. They observed polygonal droplets, streaming droplet lattices, and spinning filaments among others. As long as the electric field remains on, the wild behaviors continue; once the field is turned off, the oils relax back to typical, rounded drops. (Image, video, and research credit: G. Raju et al.; via Physics World)

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