In nature, icicles often form horizontal ripples along their outer surface. Researchers found that these shapes only form when impurities are present in the water forming icicles; icicles made from pure water are smooth. Now researchers are uncovering more details of the ripple formation process, though the underlying mechanism remains unknown.
Researchers first grew wavy icicles, then melted through them to reveal cross-sections of the icicle. They found chevron-like patterns within the ice, corresponding to areas with higher concentrations of impurities. The team think these chevrons record the process by which flowing water accumulates on the surface of the icicle prior to freezing. (Image credit: top – M. Shturma, cross-sections – J. Ladan and S. Morris; research credit: J. Ladan and S. Morris; via APS Physics)