Water – The Leidenfrost Maze

The Leidenfrost Maze was designed and built by University of Bath undergraduate students Carmen Cheng and Matthew Guy to demonstrate the self-propulsion of Leidenfrost droplets at public outreach events and schools. The video was created by Carmen Cheng as part of her undergraduate project.




The Leidenfrost effect is a phenomenon in which a liquid, such as water, forms a thin layer of vapor when it comes into contact with a surface significantly hotter than its boiling point. This layer of vapor insulates the liquid from direct contact with the surface, leading to reduced friction and allowing droplets to move freely and unpredictably.

The “Leidenfrost Maze” is an intriguing demonstration of this effect, where water droplets navigate a maze-like pattern on a superheated surface. Here’s how it works:

1. **Superheated Surface**: The surface of the maze is heated to a temperature significantly higher than the boiling point of water. When water droplets are placed on this surface, they immediately vaporize upon contact, forming a layer of vapor underneath.

2. **Vapor Cushion**: The vapor layer acts as a cushion between the water droplets and the surface, preventing direct contact. This reduces friction and allows the droplets to glide across the surface with minimal resistance.

3. **Maze Design**: The surface is constructed with a maze-like pattern, featuring walls and barriers that create pathways and dead ends. The design of the maze can vary widely, ranging from simple geometric shapes to intricate and elaborate structures.

4. **Droplet Navigation**: As the water droplets move across the surface, they follow the pathways of least resistance, navigating through the maze based on the movement of the vapor beneath them. The droplets can change direction, split apart, or merge back together as they encounter different obstacles and pathways.

5. **Visual and Kinetic Display**: The Leidenfrost Maze provides a visually captivating and dynamic display as water droplets traverse the maze, creating patterns of movement and interaction. It demonstrates the principles of fluid dynamics and the Leidenfrost effect in a visually engaging way.

Overall, the Leidenfrost Maze is a fascinating demonstration of how the interplay between temperature, surface properties, and fluid dynamics can produce unexpected and visually striking behavior. It showcases the intricate relationship between physics and aesthetics, offering both entertainment and educational value.

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