Turning Drops into Bubbles: Cavitation by Vapor Diffusion through Elastic Networks

M.A. Bruning*, M. Costalonga, J.H. Snoeijer, A. Marin

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticleAcademicpeer-review

14 Citations (Scopus)
176 Downloads (Pure)


Some members of the vegetal kingdom can achieve surprisingly fast movements making use of a clever combination of evaporation, elasticity, and cavitation. In this process, enthalpic energy is transformed into elastic energy and suddenly released in a cavitation event which produces kinetic energy. Here, we study this unusual energy transformation by a model system: A droplet in an elastic medium shrinks slowly by diffusion and eventually transforms into a bubble by a rapid cavitation event. The experiments reveal the cavity dynamics over the extremely disparate timescales of the process, spanning 9 orders of magnitude. We model the initial shrinkage as a classical diffusive process, while the sudden bubble growth and oscillations are described using an inertial-(visco)elastic model, in excellent agreement with the experiments. Such a model system could serve as a new paradigm for motile synthetic materials.

Original languageEnglish
Article number214501
JournalPhysical review letters
Issue number21
Publication statusPublished - 19 Nov 2019


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