Giant drag reduction on Leidenfrost spheres evaluated from extended free-fall trajectories

Aditya Jetly, Ivan Uriev Vakarelski, Ziqiang Yang, Sigurdur T Thoroddsen

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

8 Scopus citations


Vapor layer sustained on the surface of a heated sphere, by the means of the Leidenfrost effect, can dramatically reduce the hydrodynamic drag on a sphere due to an early drag crisis transition. Here we investigate the vapor layer effect on the free fall of heated metallic spheres in a fluorocarbon liquid, FC-72 (perfluorohexane), employing two tall liquid tanks: a 3 meter tall 14 cm wide tank and a 2 meter tall 20 × 20 cm cross-section tank with a heater device. These tanks are significantly larger than the tanks used in prior studies. We use high-speed video camera recordings to track extended fall trajectories and to compare the drag on room-temperature no-vapor-layer spheres to that of heated Leidenfrost vapor-layer spheres. Analysis of the extended free-fall trajectories and acceleration, based on the sphere dynamic equation of motion, enables the accurate evaluation of the vapor-layers-induced drag reduction, without the need for extrapolation. We demonstrate that the drag on the Leidenfrost sphere in FC-72, can be as low as CD = 0.04 ± 0.01, or an order of magnitude lower than the values for the no vapor layer spheres in the subcritical Reynolds number range. This drag reduction extends into the supercritical Reynolds number range. The analysis method developed herein, to describe the sphere trajectories, can be applied in other related studies. Results of this study are expected to stimulate the development on energy saving drag-reduction technologies based on lubricating gas layers.
Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)181-188
Number of pages8
JournalExperimental Thermal and Fluid Science
StatePublished - Nov 22 2018


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