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Society of Physics Students at Purdue University awarded a Chapter Research Award for liquid rope coiling effect research


Writer(s): Cheryl Pierce

The Society of Physics Students (SPS) has award the Purdue University Chapter of the SPS a 2020-2021 Chapter Research Award for their project to study fluid polymerization in a situation call the liquid rope coiling affect.  Their research findings will be submitted to the Journal of Undergraduate Reports in Physics (JURP) in 2022 as well as presented at an upcoming conference (yet to be determined).

"A Rope within a Rope: Fluid Polymerization in the Liquid Rope Coiling Effect,” the title of the research project, deals with the liquid rope coiling effect. This effect can be seen in fluids like honey or shampoo and describes how of streams of viscous fluids tend to coil when falling onto a surface. In the current body of research, this process has been modeled and observed for what are known as homogenous Newtonian liquids.

In 2019, the idea for liquid rope research began in the K-12 Outreach office when members of the SPS, including Matthew Schulz (pictured), learned about the coiling effect in an hourglass.


According to Matthew Schulz, the research project leader, “Homogenous Newtonian liquids can essentially be modeled as a loose collection of molecules that form a fluid that flows in the way we observe in our everyday life (like honey and shampoo). In our study being completed with the grant, the liquid rope coiling effect is observed and characterized for fluids that have long polymer chains of different lengths in the fluids. So, we essentially are trying to observe how these long polymer 'ropes' affect the liquid rope coiling effect.”

Currently, there are six members of Purdue’s SPS who have worked on the project and have their names on the proposal: Matt Schulz, Alan Wright, Robert Andrew Gustafson, Ben Hayward, Albert Xu, and David Lamey. Schulz anticipates about a dozen or more students will also help with the project once the research begins. Funding from this award will pay for the all of the materials needed to complete this research.

This idea began in the K-12 Outreach office of Purdue Physics and Astronomy’s David Sederberg in the fall of 2019.  “He brought an hourglass into our lounge in PHYS 236 that uses a viscous mixture as the 'sand' in the clock,” says Schulz. “Naturally, it exhibits the liquid rope coiling affect. A few Google searches later, and we were on our way to reviewing literature on the topic. At some point in our searches, I had mentioned polymerized fluids. We noticed there was a lack of literature in this area, and decided to apply for a grant to look into it.”

The SPS at Purdue is a social physics club on campus for undergraduates. They host events, such as game nights and movie nights, to allow members to interact with one another and have an escape from their regularly scheduled physics classes. They also host events such as professor dinners to interact with faculty members of the department in a more personal way. Because of the pandemic, many of the club’s in-person events have been adapted for social distancing in order to Protect Purdue.

Shulz says, “As is exemplified in the Rope within a Rope study, another big part of our club is taking on projects that are both serious and silly fun (like motorizing a couch). These and many more are the antics that make up our Purdue chapter of the Society of Physics Students.”

Last Updated: Mar 1, 2021 9:27 AM

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