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Water boils sans bubbles

Thermodynamic spectacle illustrates insulating power of steam

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6:14pm, September 12, 2012

Dip your finger in a bucket of water and then quickly dip it in molten lead — you won’t get burned, thanks to an insulating layer of steam that forms around the finger. Chemists have now exploited this phenomenon, known as the Leidenfrost effect, to boil water without making bubbles.

The researchers covered a steel ball with Glaco Mirror Coat, a water-hating material, along with some other water-repelling chemicals. This turned the sphere’s exterior into a nanoscale mountain range peppered with deep valleys. Heating the sphere to 400º Celsius and dropping it in room-temperature water spurred boiling, but no furious bubbles, the t

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