The Fluid Trampoline: Droplets Bouncing on a Soap Film

We present the results of a combined experimental and theoretical investigation of droplets falling onto a horizontal soap film. Both static and vertically vibrated soap films are considered. A quasi-static description of the soap film shape yields a force-displacement relation that allows us to model the film as a nonlinear spring, and yields an accurate criterion for the transition between droplet bouncing and crossing. On the vibrating film, a variety of bouncing behaviours were observed, including simple and complex periodic states, multiperiodicity and chaos. A simple theoretical model is developed that captures the essential physics of the bouncing process, reproducing all observed bouncing states. The system is among the very simplest fluid mechanical chaotic oscillators. A seemingly unlikely biological application, predator avoidance in flying fish, is discussed.

John Bush, Massachusetts Institute of Technology

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