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Phys Rev E Stat Nonlin Soft Matter Phys. 2013 Aug;88(2):023017. Epub 2013 Aug 19.

Oscillating and star-shaped drops levitated by an airflow.

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  • 1Physics of Fluids Group, Faculty of Science and Technology, University of Twente, 7500 AE Enschede, The Netherlands.


We investigate the spontaneous oscillations of drops levitated above an air cushion, eventually inducing a breaking of axisymmetry and the appearance of "star drops". This is strongly reminiscent of the Leidenfrost stars that are observed for drops floating above a hot substrate. The key advantage of this work is that we inject the airflow at a constant rate below the drop, thus eliminating thermal effects and allowing for a better control of the flow rate. We perform experiments with drops of different viscosities and observe stable states, oscillations, and chimney instabilities. We find that for a given drop size the instability appears above a critical flow rate, where the latter is largest for small drops. All these observations are reproduced by numerical simulations, where we treat the drop using potential flow and the gas as a viscous lubrication layer. Qualitatively, the onset of instability agrees with the experimental results, although the typical flow rates are too large by a factor 10. Our results demonstrate that thermal effects are not important for the formation of star drops and strongly suggest a purely hydrodynamic mechanism for the formation of Leidenfrost stars.

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