The ‘Cheerios Effect’
Authors: Dominic Vella & L. Mahadevan
Source: arXiv:cond-mat/0411688v3 [cond-mat.soft], 2008
Soft matter keywords: bubbles, interfacial tension, wetting
Objects that float at the interface between a liquid and a gas interact because of interfacial deformation and the effect of gravity. We highlight the crucial role of buoyancy in this interaction, which, for small particles, prevails over the capillary suction that is often assumed to be the dominant effect. We emphasize this point using a simple classroom demonstration, and then derive the physical conditions leading to mutual attraction or repulsion. We also quantify the force of interaction in some particular instances and present a simple dynamical model of this interaction. The results obtained from this model are then validated by comparison to experimental results for the mutual attraction of two identical spherical particles. We conclude by looking at some of the applications of the effect that can be found in the natural and manmade worlds.