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Direct Visual Observation of Thermal Capillary Waves

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Science  07 May 2004:
Vol. 304, Issue 5672, pp. 847-850
DOI: 10.1126/science.1097116

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Abstract

We studied the free fluid-fluid interface in a phase-separated colloid-polymer dispersion with laser scanning confocal microscopy and directly observed thermally induced capillary waves at the interface in real space. Experimental results for static and dynamic correlation functions validate the capillary wave model down to almost the particle level. The ultralow interfacial tension, the capillary length, and the capillary time are found to be in agreement with independent measurements. Furthermore, we show that capillary waves induce the spontaneous breakup of thin liquid films and thus are of key importance in the process of droplet coalescence.

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