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This beautiful experiment with water and alcohol could improve how we clean up oil spills

By Michael Tabb
Published Last updated This article is more than 2 years old.

Most people learn in elementary school that oil and water don’t mix. But there’s a lot more science to non-mixing fluids than differences in density.

Researchers at the Institute of Industrial Physics and Chemistry teamed up with The Lutetium Project to film a more advanced version of a basic oil-water experiment: they dropped liquid mixtures of alcohol and water on to an oil bath, to see what happened when the two substances came into contact. What they found is that surface tension combined with evaporation and flow can effectively break one big drop into many little ones.

Watch the video above to see the experiment in action, and learn about the practical applications of understanding non-mixing fluids.

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