The Mystery of the Pointy Droplets


A certain type of oil droplets changes shape when cooled and shrunk: from spherical through icosahedral to flat hexagonal. Two competing theories couldn't fully explain this, but now, a Physical Review Letter by Ireth García-Aguilar and Luca Giomi solves the mystery.

It was an accidental discovery. Bulgarian researchers at Sofia University were studying small oily droplets of alkanes in water, stabilized with soap-like surfactant-molecules. "These are similar to the emulsion droplets in mayonnaise", says Luca Giomi, "and in addition, they are enclosed in a frozen monolayer of alkane molecules and surfactants”. Read more