A YouTube video created by Bath physics students has become a surprise 2013 global internet sensation. Since going live via the University website in September, the film, showing water ricocheting through a ‘Leidenfrost Maze’, has clocked up more than half a million hits from around the world.
Undergraduates Carmen Cheng and Matthew Guy built the heated aluminium structure to demonstrate ‘The Leidenfrost Effect’ which occurs when a drop of liquid meets a surface significantly above its boiling point.
Their images of water travelling ‘uphill’ have mesmerised science fans and journalists alike and can now be seen on numerous news websites, across social media and have even been recreated on a ‘prime time’ Spanish television show El Hormiguero. On the back of the video’s success, the researchers’ maze has also been filmed for Reuters, New York’s Science Friday, and the BBC.
Dr Kei Takashina, from the University’s Department of Physics, who co-supervised the research project with Dr Alessandro Narduzzo, suspected a steady stream of interest but was unprepared for the torrent of enquiries it has prompted.
Dr Takashina said: “We released the video as a small extension to an outreach project and the reactions we have had were completely unexpected. It's been very exciting for everyone involved.
"Through this process, I've been able to have discussions with groups of people completely different from those I'm used to discussing with and this has been very stimulating.
"In the new year, we’re planning to write up this experience to maximise what we can learn from it, with the hope that it will help us with further engagement and outreach work in the future."
Dr Narduzzo said: “It’s been fantastic to share our work with a wider audience. The team at El Hormiguero flew me to Madrid to recreate the maze on live TV. The whole day was filled with laughter and fun - and they were genuinely interested in the physics of our demonstration. But it was a real challenge to recreate the maze outside the controlled conditions of a lab!”