By Anupum Pant
If you’ve been following awesci for some time now, you must remember the leidenfrost effect. The effect is clearly demonstrated by dropping some water on a really hot pan. The layer of water in contact with the hot pan vaporises and gets trapped there as an air cushion. The drop of water then is free to move around on the air cushion and it dances on the pan.
When you boil water in a vessel, something similar happens. Although a similar air cushion tries to form at the hot inner surface of the vessel (where the water is in contact), these bubbles become bigger, more buoyant and move to the surface. However, for whatever little time they remain in there, and meanwhile new ones keep forming, they create an insulating gap of air. So, the heating of water is much less efficient. How great it would have been if these bubbles never formed.
Well, scientists have accomplished that. And they propose doing it by creating extremely tiny hair like features on the inner surface of the vessel which prevent those insulating bubbles from forming and in turn decrease the time in which the water boils. In fact, by this method of surface modification, they have managed to boil water about three times faster.
The most amazing thing about these tiny hair like features they create on the surface is that they are made using a special kind of virus called the tobacco mosaic virus. Using the hooks on this virus, it is made to stick to the surface and is then coated with a thin film of nickel. And there you have your new modified surface which makes boiling water much more efficient.
Here is how it works…