Dripping Impact

How does water drip, drip, dripping onto stones erode a crater? Water is so much more deformable that it seems impossible for it to wear harder materials away, even over thousands of impacts. To investigate this, a team of researchers developed a new measurement technique: high-speed stress microscopy. In the process, they found that water owes its incredible erosive power to three factors: 1) The drop’s impact creates surface shock waves along the material, which helps increase erosive power; 2) After the shock wave passes, a decompression wave in the material helps loosen surface matter; and 3) The spreading drop sends a non-uniform wave of stress across the material that simultaneously presses and scrubs at the surface. Together, these factors enable simple, repetitive droplet impacts to wear away at hard surfaces. (Image credit: cottonbro; research credit: T. Sun et al.; via Cosmos; submitted by Kam-Yung Soh)

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