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Mobility of free surface in different liquids and its influence on water striders locomotion


Dynamics of the surface layer in different liquids is examined by means of infrared thermography of the surface and simultaneous velocity fields measurements using surface and infrared Particle Image Velocimetry. This technique allows measurements and comparison of two velocity fields—at the surface and at small depth about 50–200 μm. In distilled water the velocity fields at the surface and at small depth exhibit significant dissimilarity. The flow field below the surface is essentially 3D, whereas the surface flow is characterized by vanishing 2D divergence of velocity, indicating predominantly planar motion. In contrast, in ethanol–butanol mixture two velocity fields are well correlated, both corresponding to 3D flow with continuous surface renewal. Thermal patterns, observed at the surface, and the flow field structure in different liquids are associated with different boundary conditions for velocity at the surface. Water surface is seldom renewed, which inhibits heat and mass exchange between the liquid and atmosphere. However, absence of vertical advection also enables organisms to live within the surface layer, to stand and walk on the free surface. This is illustrated by the difficulties a water strider faces on the surface of ultrapure water, which exhibits Marangoni convection.

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This work was partially supported by Russian Foundation for Basic Research under Grant 15-08-03049. Authors also acknowledge support from M. V. Lomonosov State University Program of Development.

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Correspondence to Nikolay A. Vinnichenko.

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Movie 1 (file ESM1.avi) IR imaging of water strider on the surface of distilled water in elliptical container (major axis 18.5 cm, minor axis 12 cm). Average surface temperature is about 31.5 °C. To reduce the file size, movie is subsampled for frame rate 5 fps. (avi 24871 KB)


Movie 2 (file ESM2.avi) IR imaging of water strider on the surface of ultrapure water in Petri dish (diameter 8.5 cm). Average surface temperature is about 31.5 °C. To reduce the file size, movie is subsampled for frame rate 5 fps. (avi 17148 KB)

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Vinnichenko, N.A., Plaksina, Y.Y., Baranova, K.M. et al. Mobility of free surface in different liquids and its influence on water striders locomotion. Environ Fluid Mech 18, 1045–1056 (2018).

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  • Air–liquid interface
  • Cool skin
  • Marangoni convection
  • Particle Image Velocimetry
  • Thermal imaging
  • Water strider