Vortex smoke rings created with 3D printed wings

Dustin Kleckner sez, "Scientists tie vortex rings (smoke rings, basically) into knots using 3D printed wings. Includes high speed video, also in 3D. In addition to being very cool, they are also related to knots and braids that appear in places like the sun's surface. Full disclosure: I'm one of the scientists that did the research."

The duo overcame their experimental difficulties by designing and fabricating various hydrofoils (wings used in water) on a 3-D printer. They tried approximately 30 different shapes before they successfully created the desired vortices. When accelerated in a water tank at more than 100 g, hydrofoils leave behind bubble-traced vortex loops, whose dynamics the researchers recorded with a high-speed camera.

“The bubbles are a great trick because they allow you to see the core of the vortex very clearly,” Irvine said.

Vortex loops could untie knotty physics problems [U Chicago Press Release]

Creation and dynamics of knotted vortices [Nature]


  1. they would’ve told us if a Möbius strip hydrofoil opened a door to another dimension, wouldn’t they?

  2. Vortex knots exist in optical speckle, and this has been known for quite some time. There is a paper with a sweet title that describes this called “The Fractality of Lights Darkness.” This bubble-hydrofoil video is a classic case of academics over-hyping a cool looking experiment. They should be less loose with statements like “first time a vortex knot has been realized.”
    http://www.phy.bristol.ac.uk/people/dennis_mr/papers/PRL100_053902.pdfd for those of you too lazy to google it.

  3. Smokeless cigarettes just got some cred back…as long as they can pull 100G and do (micrograph, I suppose) streak photography. The open question: How will this help us tell kitchen and makerspace entrances apart?

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