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How to reconstruct this cool looking experiment?
December 6, 2011 3:57 PM   Subscribe

Recreating the Yves-Couder Experiment from Through the Wormhole

I want to recreate the Yves-Couder Silicon-Oil Droplet experiment that signified wave-particle duality that I saw on "Through the Wormhole".

It was the experiment where the droplet hovered over the water and created ripples in the water below it. Doing a bit of research on my own, from this article, I know it involves a fluid filled tray on a vibrating surface that's vibrating below the intensity that would actually cause waves, and then I guess I a silicon-oil droplet is dropped on top and is cushioned by air so they don't touch and coalesce.

I'm having trouble understanding and trying to realize this project. Are there any suggestions for creating a finely controlled vibrating surface I can put the water tray on? What do they mean it is cushioned by air? Does air have to be flowing across the surface of the water or will the droplet 'float' above it on its own? What exactly is the silicon-oil used, and where can I get it, and how do I administer it?

After I have the basic materials and ideas, I can probably construct it on my own via experimentation, but I just thought that this was amazingly cool and wanted to try making my own if it is viable cost and time wise.
posted by Peregrin5 to Science & Nature (5 answers total) 4 users marked this as a favorite
Have you looked at the original journal paper? Even if you can't afford a fancy setup (maybe they didn't have a fancy setup either) it might give you ideas and answer some of your questions.
posted by zeek321 at 4:44 PM on December 6, 2011 [1 favorite]

You can find some of the answers in their first paper. Here are the key paragraphs:

A container (5 x 5 x 3 cm^3) is filled with silicon oil and placed on a vibration exciter driven by a low frequency generator. Silicon oils are used to avoid surfactant effects. We explored the phenomena described below in a large range of viscosities: 5 x 10^-3 < mu < 1 Pa s. The reported quantitative results were obtained with Rhodorsyl oil 47V 500, which has a viscosity mu = 500 x 10^-3 Pa s, surface tension sigma = 20.9 mN/m, and density rho = 965 kg/m^3. In our experiments, the amplitude of the imposed oscillation is below the Faraday instability threshold so that the surface of the bath is stable. Care is taken for the drop and the bath to be at the same temperature. The motion can be observed in stroboscopic light or, for transients, with a fast
video camera (1000 images/s). We measure the forcing acceleration gamma = gamma_m*cos(omega*t).

A drop deposited on a motionless bath vanishes in a few tenths of a second. If we oscillate the substrate vertically, several regimes are observed where coalescence is either completely inhibited or strongly delayed. With small drops and large enough forcing, a stationary regime is observed where the drop lifts up from the surface at each period (Fig. 1). In this bouncing regime, the air separating the drop from the film is constantly renewed: there is no aging of the system. As a result, the lifetime of these drops appears unlimited. For instance, using an oil (mu = 20 x 10^-3 Pa s at omega/2*pi = 80 Hz and gamma_m = 6g) we kept a drop of diameter d = 1 mm bouncing for three days. During this motion the smaller drops (d < 1 mm) remain nearly spherical.

posted by mr_roboto at 5:23 PM on December 6, 2011 [1 favorite]

You can find vibration exciters here or here. This will be your major expense. You might need a function generator; you can get one off ebay.

Google the oil (a quick search shows it might actually be called "Rhodorsil"). You can get it a bunch of places.

I don't think you need a high-speed camera to just observe the non-coalescence phenomenon.
posted by mr_roboto at 5:37 PM on December 6, 2011 [1 favorite]

You may be able to substitute a loudspeaker for a vibration exciter. You can find lots of neat videos on youtube of people vibrating liquids on a loudspeaker.
posted by moonmilk at 5:40 PM on December 6, 2011 [1 favorite]

Thanks guys! I'll do my best with this!
posted by Peregrin5 at 8:07 PM on December 7, 2011

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