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November 23rd, 2007
Researchers have hit upon an unusual way to spin tiny propellers - set them on top of tiny bouncing bubbles. Inspired by winged seed pods, they could find use for mixing tiny amounts of liquids, or strength-testing nanostructures, researchers say.
Daniel Attinger, of Columbia University, New York, US, and colleagues hit upon the idea when investigating the way fluids move around vibrating bubbles. By heating water, the team made tiny bubbles around 40 micrometres across, the width of a few human cells, on a container's walls.
Theoretical studies have suggested that bouncing creates a vortex around bubbles, so the researchers vibrated the container with a piezoelectric "buzzer" to achieve this. They then put small pieces of plastic into the flow around them to search for signs of the vortex effect.
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