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BACOS, Romelito D.

Engr. Renato B. Cubilla

01 September 2014


by: Guillaume Riboux and Jose Manuel Gordillo
University of Seville, Spain
Published: 11 July 2014

When a liquid drop hits a solid surface, like a
raindrop hitting pavement, it may flatten and spread smoothly,
or it may produce a ragged-edged splash. But researchers
dont know which factors determine the result. Now a team in
Spain says that the gas surrounding the droplet appears to be
crucial to whether it splashes or not. They performed
experiments with a range of liquids and worked out an
equation that predicts the minimum velocity for a droplet to
splash, depending on its size and the properties of the
surrounding atmosphere. The results may lead to better
understanding of systems such as ink jets and dispersal of
pesticides and plant infections.
Industrial problems such as inkjet printing and
coating of surfaces require a deep understanding of the impact
of drops on solids. For example, researchers would like to
know whether or not such impacts will produce a splash. Its
been long known that faster-moving drops fragment more
readily than slower-moving ones and that other important
factors include the drop size, liquid viscosity, and strength of
the surface tension.
But Guillaume Riboux and Jos Manuel Gordillo of
the University of Seville in Spain argue that these aspects of
the problem havent been properly assembled before. Gordillo
says that through a combination of experiment and theoretical
analysis they have been able to put all the pieces of a very
complex puzzle together, including the ambient gas
properties, which havent been properly accounted for

Using high-speed cameras, Riboux and Gordillo

filmed droplets of eight different liquids, varying in density,
surface tension, and viscosity, as they fell onto a solid surface
at various speeds. They saw that, on impact, the liquid begins
to spread out laterally over the surface in a sheet just a few
tens of micrometers thick.
The next step depends on the specific liquid-surface
interaction. For liquids that would ordinarily bead up rather
than spread out on a surface, a thin layer of air intervenes
below the spreading edge of the liquid sheet, so the liquid lifts
off of the surface. Then, as the sheet rapidly advances it
experiences aerodynamic lift, like an airplane wing.
In some cases this rise is only temporary: the sheet
touches down again and spreads smoothly, with no splash. But
in other cases the sheet continues to rise higher. Surface
tension then creates a well-known instability in the edge of the
sheet, which generates corrugations that grow to create a
ragged splash and eject tiny drops. This is essentially the same
instability that causes a thin stream of water from a faucet to
fragment into drops.
The ambient air determines whether there is a
sustained takeoff, the team found. Classically, if it worked like
an airplane wing, the lift force would depend on the air density
and the speed of the sheet. But the researchers found that, at
these tiny scales, two other factors come into play: the
viscosity of the gas and the so-called mean free path of the gas
moleculeshow far they travel, on average, before colliding
with another molecule. This distance, which is around 65
nanometers for ambient air, determines the velocity of the gas
flow very close to the solid surface, which in turn affects the
upward force on the underside of the liquid sheet. The effect
of the mean free path is usually negligible, but in the
microscopically tiny gap between the liquid sheet and the solid
surface, it becomes appreciable.
The researchers have suggested that results of the
experiment would be of great help to work on with inkjet
printing with accuracy and smoothness. One of the researchers
also said that it would be of great help in the field of forensics
because it will provide a near accurate estimate of height in
which a blood drop fell. Lastly, it would also beneficial in
reducing the spread of plant infections due to bacterial transfer
resulting from raindrop splashes.