Laser-Induced Jet Break-Up

Composite image showing an ordered jet breakup transitioning back to a random configuration after the laser turns off.

A falling stream of water will naturally break up into droplets via the Plateau-Rayleigh instability. Those droplets are random, unless something like vibration of the nozzle sets their size. In this study, though, researchers found that shining a laser beam on the stream can trigger an orderly break-up with droplets that are consistent in size and spacing.

The optofluidic phenomenon depends on a few different effects. The changing curvature of the liquid stream reflects the laser light, some of which undergoes total internal reflection and travels up the jet as if it were a fiber optic cable. Look closely in the right side of the second image, and you’ll see a periodic flicker of green light at the mouth of the nozzle. Those flashes of green reveal that the liquid jet is guiding the light upstream in bursts, each of which exerts an optical pressure that triggers the Plateau-Rayleigh instability.

When the laser first turns on, there’s a transition period before the orderly break-up begins, and, likewise, turning the laser off triggers a transition from orderly to random (top image). (Image and research credit: H. Liu et al.; via APS Physics; submitted by Kam-Yung Soh)

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.