Research

Enhancing the Cheerios Effect

Objects at an air-water interface experience attraction due to their menisci. This Cheerios effect is what causes cereals to cluster in a bowl.

The Cheerios in your morning cereal clump together with one another and the bowl’s wall due to an attractive force caused by the curvature of their menisci. A recent study looks at how this effect changes when you’re pulling objects out of the liquid.

Snapshots show how two flexible fibers get drawn together by an attractive force as they are pulled out of silicon oil.
Snapshots show how two flexible fibers get drawn together by an attractive force as they are pulled out of silicon oil.

The researchers inserted thin flexible glass fibers into silicon oil and withdrew them. As they did, they explored what lengths and retraction speeds caused the fibers to pull together. They found that a single moving rod had a taller meniscus than a stationary one, and two moving rods had a liquid bridge that superposed their individual menisci. The result was an attractive force even stronger than what the fibers experienced when still. (Image credit: Cheerios – D. Streit, experiment – H. Bense et al.; research credit: H. Bense et al.; via APS Physics)

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