Journal of Fluid Mechanics


A ratchet trap for Leidenfrost drops

Thomas R. Cousinsa1, Raymond E. Goldsteina1 c1, Justin W. Jaworskia1 and Adriana I. Pescia1

a1 Department of Applied Mathematics and Theoretical Physics, University of Cambridge, Wilberforce Road, Cambridge CB3 0WA, UK


The Leidenfrost effect occurs when a drop of liquid (or a sublimating solid) is levitated above a sufficiently hot surface through the action of an insulating vapour layer flowing from its bottom surface. When such a drop is levitated above a surface with parallel, asymmetric sawtooth-shaped ridges it is known to be propelled in a unique direction, or ratcheted, by the interaction of the vapour layer with the surface. Here we exploit this effect to construct a ‘ratchet trap’ for Leidenfrost drops: a surface with concentric circular ridges, each asymmetric in cross-section. A combination of experiment and theory is used to study the dynamics of drops in these traps, whose centre is a stable fixed point. Numerical analysis of the evaporating flows over a ratchet surface suggests new insights into the mechanism of motion rectification that are incorporated into the simplest equations of motion for ratchet-driven motion of a Leidenfrost body; these resemble a central force problem in celestial mechanics with mass loss and drag. A phase-plane analysis of experimental trajectories is used to extract more detailed information about the ratcheting phenomenon. Orbiting drops are found to exhibit substantial deformations; those with large internal angular momentum can even undergo binary fission. Such ratchet traps may thus prove useful in the controlled study of many properties of Leidenfrost drops.

(Received August 25 2011)

(Reviewed December 23 2011)

(Accepted January 10 2012)

(Online publication February 27 2012)

Key Words:

  • condensation/evaporation;
  • drops


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