Probing the nanoscale with high-speed interferometry of an impacting drop

Sigurdur T Thoroddsen, Erqiang Li, Ivan Uriev Vakarelski, Kenneth Langley

Research output: Chapter in Book/Report/Conference proceedingConference contribution


The simple phenomenon of a water drop falling onto a glass plate may seem like a trivial fluid mechanics problem. However, detailed imaging has shown that this process is highly complex and a small air-bubble is always entrapped under the drop when it makes contact with the solid. This bubble can interfere with the uniformity of spray coatings and degrade inkjet fabrication of displays etc. We will describe how we use high-speed interferometry at 5 million frames per second to understand the details of this process. As the impacting drop approaches the solid, the dynamics are characterized by a balance between the lubrication pressure in the thin air layer and the inertia of the bot-tom of the drop. This deforms the drop, forming a dimple at its bottom and making the drop touch the surface along a ring, thereby entrapping the air-layer, which is typically 1-3 mu m thick. This air-layer can be highly compressed and the deceleration of the bottom of the drop can be as large as 300,000 g. We describe how the thicknessevolution of the lubricating air-layer is extracted from following the interference fringes between frames. Two-color interferometry is also used to extract absolute layer thicknesses. Finally, we identify the effects of nanometric surface roughness on the first contact of the drop with the substrate. Here we need to resolve the 100 nm thickness changes occurring during 200 ns intervals, requiring these state of the art high-speed cameras. Surprisingly, we see a ring of micro-bubbles marking the first contact of the drop with the glass, only for microscope slides, which have a typical roughness of 20 nm, while such rings are absent for drop impacts onto molecularly smooth mica surfaces.
Original languageEnglish (US)
Title of host publicationSelected Papers from the 31st International Congress on High-Speed Imaging and Photonics
PublisherSPIE-Intl Soc Optical Eng
ISBN (Print)9781510611009
StatePublished - Feb 28 2017


Dive into the research topics of 'Probing the nanoscale with high-speed interferometry of an impacting drop'. Together they form a unique fingerprint.

Cite this