Self-sustained levitation of millimeter-sized droplets discovered

Recently, researchers at Tyumen State University in Russia made an astonishing discovery during their experiments with immiscible liquids that don’t mix well together. Natalia Ivanova and Denis Klyuev observed an incredible phenomenon: when droplets of butyl alcohol were detached from a syringe needle and placed on another liquid, they levitated above the surface for an unexpectedly long time without collapsing.

Describing the experience, Ivanova said it was truly amazing to witness the droplets levitating for tens of minutes. Normally, droplets levitate above a liquid pool for only a fraction of a second, so this extended levitation was a remarkable find.

To achieve this self-sustained levitation, the researchers used solutocapillary convection within a pool of silicone liquid. This phenomenon occurs due to a surface tension gradient formed by the uneven distribution of vapor molecules from the droplet at the pool surface.

Ivanova pointed out that sometimes we fail to notice fascinating phenomena right in front of us because we become too focused on a specific task. She emphasized the importance of exploring alternative approaches to problem-solving.

Traditionally, to keep droplets levitating for an extended period, external forces or continuous excess pressure are needed. However, in this case, the researchers achieved long-term levitation without any external influences.

The potential applications of this discovery are exciting. It could lead to the development of scientific tools to explore microorganisms and improve the understanding of heat and mass transfer within vapor films.

Ivanova and Klyuev are hopeful that other researchers will also explore solutocapillary convection levitation due to its fascinating nature and its relevance to modeling microscale transport. Additionally, they plan to investigate the impact of external factors on this levitation system.

Overall, their findings open up new possibilities in the fields of microbiology, biochemistry, and beyond.

Source: American Institute of Physics

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