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Coupling the Leidenfrost Effect and Elastic Deformations to Power Sustained Bouncing

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GFSW01 - Form and deformation in solid and fluid mechanics

The Leidenfrost effect occurs when an object near a hot surface vaporizes rapidly enough to lift itself up and hover. Although well-understood for liquids and stiff sublimable solids, nothing is known about the effect with materials whose stiffness lies between these extremes. Here we introduce a new phenomenon that occurs with vaporizable soft solids: the elastic Leidenfrost effect. By dropping hydrogel spheres onto hot surfaces we find that, rather than hovering, they energetically bounce several times their diameter for minutes at a time. With high-speed video during a single impact, we uncover high-frequency microscopic gap dynamics at the sphere-substrate interface. We show how these otherwise-hidden agitations constitute work cycles that harvest mechanical energy from the vapour and sustain the bouncing. Our findings unleash a widely applicable strategy for injecting mechanical energy into soft materials, with potential relevance to fields ranging from soft robotics and metamaterials to microfluidics and active matter.

This talk is part of the Isaac Newton Institute Seminar Series series.

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