Splashing on Spheres

A droplet splashes against a flat surface.

The splash of a droplet is a surprisingly complex phenomenon, depending not only on the droplet’s characteristics but also the surrounding air pressure, the roughness and temperature of the impact surface, and the surface’s curvature. In this study, researchers investigated the effects of surface curvature on splashing, finding that it’s harder for a drop to splash on spheres of smaller radius than ones with a larger radius of curvature.

In Image 1, the falling droplet coats the 2-mm sphere with no sign of splashing. But as the radius gets larger (Images 2 and 3), splashing becomes more and more pronounced. They found that the splash suppression is due to a modification of the lift force on the leading edge of the lamella, the thin liquid layer created as the drop impacts and spread. (Image, research, and submission credit: T. Sykes et al.; also available here)

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