Self-propulsion of inverse Leidenfrost drops on a cryogenic bath

Anaïs Gauthier* (Corresponding Author), Christian Diddens, Rémi Proville, Detlef Lohse, Devaraj van der Meer

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticleAcademicpeer-review

47 Citations (Scopus)
61 Downloads (Pure)


When deposited on a hot bath, volatile drops are observed to stay in levitation: the so-called Leidenfrost effect. Here, we discuss drop dynamics in an inverse Leidenfrost situation where room-temperature drops are deposited on a liquid-nitrogen pool and levitate on a vapor film generated by evaporation of the bath. In the seconds following deposition, we observe that the droplets start to glide on the bath along a straight path, only disrupted by elastic bouncing close to the edges of the container. Initially at rest, these self-propelled drops accelerate within a few seconds and reach velocities on the order of a few centimeters per second before slowing down on a longer time scale. They remain self-propelled as long as they are sitting on the bath, even after freezing and cooling down to liquid-nitrogen temperature. We experimentally investigate the parameters that affect liquid motion and propose a model, based on the experimentally and numerically observed (stable) symmetry breaking within the vapor film that supports the drop. When the film thickness and the cooling dynamics of the drops are also modeled, the variations of the drop velocities can be accurately reproduced.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)1174-1179
Number of pages6
JournalProceedings of the National Academy of Sciences of the United States of America
Issue number4
Publication statusPublished - 22 Jan 2019


  • Drops
  • Inverse Leidenfrost effect
  • Liquid nitrogen bath
  • Self-propulsion


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