Science & Tech

Tiniest droplets produced from triangular nozzles

2 min read

New taps may be a technology boon

Ultra-tiny taps – which could, in theory, create drops just 8 billionths of a millimeter in size – might prove a boon for technologies that employ sprays of costly materials. For instance, triangular taps could boost the resolution of ink-jet printers, which work by squirting fine droplets of ink onto surfaces. They could also cut the size of traditional silicon chips and biochips, both of which feature patterns that are sometimes produced by a tightly controlled spray of droplets. “Round nozzles are perfectly good for most applications,” says Henry Chen, a graduate student in physics who presented the work at a meeting of the American Physical Society’s Division of Fluid Dynamics. “Most nozzles don’t need to perform with exacting volume or pressure, so it may not even have occurred to anyone to try anything other than a circular opening.” The minuscule triangular nozzle envisioned by Chen and his adviser, Michael P. Brenner, allows just one tiny drop to squeeze through. The tap’s three corners reduce a drop’s curvature and in turn the pressure needed to eject it from the nozzle. Compared to droplets from a tiny round tap, the scientists found, drops from an equally small triangular nozzle require less pressure to spray them out, easing the toll on pipes.