Volume 503 Issue 7476, 21 November 2013

A water drop strikes the water-averse wing of a Morpho butterfly. There are many uses for surfaces that can stay dry, self-clean or resist icing. Liquid drops hitting such surfaces tend to spread out and then retract before finally bouncing. Many applications benefit from minimizing the contact time between drop and surface, which is generally assumed to occur if the impacting drop deforms symmetrically. Kripa K. Varanasi and colleagues now show that drops bounce off faster from a superhydrophobic surface with a morphology that redistributes the liquid mass so that it no longer spreads and retracts symmetrically. Theory and experiments confirm that this strategy shortens the contact time between a bouncing drop and a surface beyond what was thought possible. Photo: A. T. Paxson, K. Hounsell, J. W. Bales, J. C. Bird & K. Varanasi.

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