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Impact and rebound of liquid drops: from fundamental to technological aspects


The goal of the project is to unravel fundamental aspects of the impact and rebound of liquid drops, a problem highly relevant to technological applications ranging from inkjet printing to deposition of pesticides on plant leaves.

We develop a theoretical description of the singular small-scale structures that emerge upon impact, and numerical simulations of the dynamics on high-tech surfaces engineered for technological purposes. When a liquid drop hits a wall, it does not deform to a simple pancake-like structure, but instead exhibits a variety of remarkable morphologies.

This drop subsequently retracts and often rebounds from the surface: for most applications this effect is extremely unwelcome. The dynamics and singular morphologies of impacting drops have only recently been characterized experimentally, while there exists no theory based on the underlying fluid mechanics.

The problem brings together fundamental problems such as free surface flows, high Reynolds numbers and moving contact lines, and hence forms a theoretical challenge of timely interest. Revealing these fundamental mechanisms is extremely valuable for technological applications, which are often based on "trial and error" solutions.

The project will greatly contribute through numerical simulations of impact on micro-patterned substrates, such as "superhydrophobic" surfaces. This directly connects to cutting-edge experimental research via collaborations with the groups of Daniel Bonn (ENS), David Quere (College de France), and a recent major UK initiative on inkjet technology. The project thus provides a unique opportunity to combine recent advances in hydrodynamics with rapidly evolving technology-based research.

For the applicant, the project allows to work with the pioneer of singularity research in fluid mechanics, within an international effort of leading European institutes. As such, the Fellowship provides a crucial step towards professional maturity.

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