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Have you ever wondered why your Cheerios seem to stick together in your morning bowl of milk? It turns out that this phenomenon has a name: the Cheerios effect. But it's not just limited to your breakfast cereal. This same fluid physics is at work when you see pollen floating on the surface of a pond or a frothy head on your favorite beer. The concept might seem simple, but the underlying physics is fascinating and complex. Once you learn more about the Cheerios effect, you'll see it everywhere in nature and daily life. So, next time you're enjoying a bowl of Cheerios, take a moment to appreciate the amazing physics at play!
Objects can either float or sink on the surface of a liquid, depending on the interplay between three forces, i.e., gravity, buoyancy, and surface tension all come into play here. When an object is immersed in a liquid, gravity pulls it down while buoyancy pushes it up. But wait, there's more! At the surface of the liquid, the game changes entirely. There's a third force at work here—surface tension. This force arises from the liquid molecules being more attracted to each other than the air above the surface. So, objects that don't wet the surface of the liquid experience an upward force due to surface tension. If this force is strong enough to counteract gravity, the object will float on the surface, causing the surface to dip down. On the other hand, objects that have a net positive buoyancy will push against the surface, causing the liquid surface to bulge upward around them.
The Cheerios effect is a fascinating phenomenon where objects on a liquid surface move in different directions based on the force they experience. It's like a dance party where the guests move towards each other or away from each other based on their vibes! But the real magic lies in the physics principles that govern this effect, which were explained in a paper published in the American Journal of Physics in 2005. The paper revealed that objects with an upward force move towards each other as the liquid surface curves upward, while objects with a downward force move together horizontally as the liquid surface curves downward. Additionally, the meniscus effect, which affects how a liquid behaves in a container, also plays a role in this phenomenon. If the container is wet with the liquid, the meniscus will incline upwards at the container's wall, causing buoyant objects to move towards the wall and up along the surface. On the other hand, non-buoyant objects move away from the container's walls for the same reason. It's incredible how the tiniest forces can cause such a captivating display!
Imagine a rainy day when the streets flood and the water level rise rapidly. In such a situation, fire ants have a remarkable survival strategy that allows them to stick together and float through the water. By morphing into a floating raft, they can brave the floodwaters and stay afloat. But how do these tiny creatures manage to create such a life-saving raft?
At a minimum, a stable raft requires at least ten fire ants, according to recent scientific findings. Rafts with fewer than ten ants cannot remain stable due to the insufficient "Cheerios effect" of fluid dynamics. This phenomenon, however, can be harnessed to engineer nanoparticles for biofluid emulsions. Additionally, the movement and communication of ants can be applied to the design of swarming microrobots. Studying these minuscule creatures can lead to innovative technological advancements that may benefit us in various ways.
Creating drug microcarriers with specific features for prolonged duration and better absorption is a crucial goal in medicine. Fortunately, a team of researchers has discovered an innovative solution inspired by the Cheerios effect. They have developed a microfluidic electrospray microbubble carrier that exhibits remarkable properties for extended oral delivery. This approach provides superior product stability and controllability compared to conventional fabrication techniques. The unique hollow structure of the microbubbles, which mimics the behavior of Cheerios, allows them to float in gastric juice, cling to the stomach wall, and increase the duration and absorption of the drugs they contain.
As we discuss the Cheerios effect, it is worthwhile to understand computational fluid dynamics and what it can do. Computational fluid dynamics (CFD) is an aspect of multiphysics system analysis that simulates the behavior of fluids and their thermodynamic properties using numerical models. Cadence Fidelity CFD software promises to increase your design productivity and reduce time to results with advanced tools and methods for your fluid flow solution. It is used in today’s design processes, such as propulsion, aerodynamics, hydrodynamics, and combustion, to improve and increase the efficiency of products without relying on time-consuming and expensive physical testing. Fidelity CFD, with its streamlined workflows, a massively parallel architecture, and state-of-the-art solver technology, provides unprecedented performance and accuracy and increases engineering efficiency for today’s design challenges.
Along the lines of Cheerios effect-inspired oral drug delivery, it is worth mentioning that OpenEye, Cadence Molecular Sciences, is a prominent player in the field of computational molecular design, boasting decades of experience in providing agile, dependable, and scalable software, toolkits, and design services for the pharmaceutical and biotechnology industries. The scientific methodology of OpenEye revolves around scrutinizing and interpreting the shape and electrostatic properties of molecular 3D structures, enabling us to guide and enhance the development of innovative drugs and biotechnology products.
The Cheerios effect, which occurs when small particles are attracted to each other in a liquid and clump together, may appear straightforward. However, it is a captivating and intricate interplay between different forces. This phenomenon has the potential to unlock innovative technological advancements, such as creating microcarriers for drug delivery and developing swarming microrobots. Understanding the complexities of the Cheerios effect could be the key to unlocking a wide range of new and exciting applications in various fields.
To get hands-on experience using the Cadence Fidelity CFD tools for different fluid flow applications, request a demo today!