Lift-off instability during the impact of a drop on a solid surface

John M. Kolinski*, L. Mahadevan, Shmuel M. Rubinstein

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

72 Scopus citations


We directly measure the rapid spreading dynamics succeeding the impact of a droplet of fluid on a solid, dry surface. Upon impact, the air separating the liquid from the solid surface fails to drain and wetting is delayed as the liquid rapidly spreads outwards over a nanometer thin film of air. We show that the approach of the spreading liquid front toward the surface is unstable and the spreading front lifts off away from the surface. Lift-off ensues well before the liquid contacts the surface, in contrast with prevailing paradigm where lift-off of the liquid is contingent on solid-liquid contact and the formation of a viscous boundary layer. Here we investigate the dynamics of liquid spreading over a thin film of air and its lift-off away from the surface over a large range of fluid viscosities and find that the lift-off instability is dependent on viscosity and occurs at a time that scales with the viscosity to the power of one half.

Original languageAmerican English
Article number134501
JournalPhysical Review Letters
Issue number13
StatePublished - 4 Apr 2014
Externally publishedYes


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