Evaporation-triggered microdroplet nucleation and the four life phases of an evaporating Ouzo drop

Huanshu Tan, Christian Diddens, Pengyu Lv, J.G.M. Kuerten, Xuehua Zhang, Detlef Lohse

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Evaporating liquid droplets are omnipresent in nature and technology, such as in inkjet printing, coating, deposition of materials, medical diagnostics, agriculture, the food industry, cosmetics, or spills of liquids. Whereas the evaporation of pure liquids, liquids with dispersed particles, or even liquid mixtures has intensively been studied over the past two decades, the evaporation of ternary mixtures of liquids with different volatilities and mutual solubilities has not yet been explored. Here we show that the evaporation of such ternary mixtures can trigger a phase transition and the nucleation of microdroplets of one of the components of the mixture. As a model system, we pick a sessile Ouzo droplet (as known from daily life—a transparent mixture of water, ethanol, and anise oil) and reveal and theoretically explain its four life phases: In phase I, the spherical cap-shaped droplet remains transparent while the more volatile ethanol is evaporating, preferentially at the rim of the drop because of the singularity there. This leads to a local ethanol concentration reduction and correspondingly to oil droplet nucleation there. This is the beginning of phase II, in which oil microdroplets quickly nucleate in the whole drop, leading to its milky color that typifies the so-called “Ouzo effect.‿ Once all ethanol has evaporated, the drop, which now has a characteristic nonspherical cap shape, has become clear again, with a water drop sitting on an oil ring (phase III), finalizing the phase inversion. Finally, in phase IV, all water has evaporated, leaving behind a tiny spherical cap-shaped oil drop.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)8642-8647
Number of pages6
JournalProceedings of the National Academy of Sciences of the United States of America
Issue number31
Publication statusPublished - 2 Aug 2016


  • Sessile droplets
  • Different volatilities
  • Ternary droplet
  • Nucleation
  • Evaporation
  • Ouzo effect
  • 2023 OA procedure


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