Dancing Droplets

A recent study conducted by a trio of researchers from Stanford – Nate Circa, Manu Prakash and Adrien Benusiglio – explained the curious attraction found between droplets of similar coloured food colouring and the strange hostile behaviour towards those of different colours, a phenomenon that Nate Circa stumbled upon quite accidentally a few years ago.

Their research found food colouring to be a 2 component fluid – consisting of water and propylene glycol. The 2 chemical compounds coexisted retaining their separate molecular identities. The dynamic interaction between these 2 molecular components however enabled these inanimate droplets to mimic the biological behaviour of living cells. This seemingly complex behaviour, as bizarre and fascinating as it sounds, is known as artificial chemotaxis.

Courtesy of Nate Circa, Manu Prakash and Adrien Benusiglio

Courtesy of Nate Circa, Manu Prakash and Adrien Benusiglio

Courtesy of Nate Circa, Manu Prakash and Adrien Benusiglio

Courtesy of Nate Circa, Manu Prakash and Adrien Benusiglio

Courtesy of Nate Circa, Manu Prakash and Adrien Benusiglio

Courtesy of Nate Circa, Manu Prakash and Adrien Benusiglio

The trio explains this dual phenomena as something that is not exclusive to food colouring but can be exhibited by a variety of fluids that share the same relationship. The series of experiments conducted by them however are worthy of being exhibited in a museum. Using chemical processes to create live art is something that hasn’t been explored all that much and in this age of scientific advancement, is worthy of being a revolutionary style in itself.

By: Shamita Chaudhry

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