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Spontaneous oscillations of a sessile lens

Published online by Cambridge University Press:  04 July 2007

Ralph M. Parsons Laboratory, Department of Civil and Environmental Engineering, MIT, Cambridge, MA, USA
Department of Mathematics, MIT, Cambridge, MA, USA


When an oil drop is placed on a water surface, it assumes the form of a sessile lens. We consider the curious behaviour that may arise when the oil contains a water-insoluble surfactant: the lens radius oscillates in a quasi-periodic fashion. While this oscillatory behaviour has been reported elsewhere, a consistent physical explanation has yet to be given. We present the results of an experimental investigation that enable us to elucidate the subtle mechanism responsible. Videomicroscopy reveals that the beating behaviour is generated by a subtle process of partial emulsification at the lens edge and sustained by evaporation of surfactant from the water surface.

Copyright © Cambridge University Press 2007

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