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Phys Rev Lett. 2011 Dec 23;107(26):264501. Epub 2011 Dec 20.

Hydrodynamics of writing with ink.

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School of Mechanical and Aerospace Engineering, Seoul National University, Seoul 151-744, Korea.


Writing with ink involves the supply of liquid from a pen onto a porous hydrophilic solid surface, paper. The resulting linewidth depends on the pen speed and the physicochemical properties of the ink and paper. Here we quantify the dynamics of this process using a combination of experiment and theory. Our experiments are carried out using a minimal pen, a long narrow tube that serves as a reservoir of liquid, which can write on a model of paper, a hydrophilic micropillar array. A minimal theory for the rate of wicking or spreading of the liquid is given by balancing the capillary force that drives the liquid flow and the resistance associated with flow through the porous substrate. This allows us to predict the shape of the front and the width of the line laid out by the pen, with results that are corroborated by our experiments.

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