The Inverse Leidenfrost Effect

The Inverse Leidenfrost Effect

Droplets levitate on a bath of liquid nitrogen and are spontaneously self-propelled. Thanks Audible! Start a 30-day trial and your first audiobook is free. Go to or text VERITASIUM to 500500.

Special thanks to Dr. Anaïs Gauthier
Physics of Fluids:

Self-propulsion of inverse Leidenfrost drops on a cryogenic bath
Anaïs Gauthier, Christian Diddens, Rémi Proville, Detlef Lohse, and Devaraj van der Meer
PNAS January 22, 2019 116 (4) 1174-1179; published ahead of print January 22, 2019

For a detailed description of the setup:

And self-propulsion is also seen:

Other recent (hot) Leidenfrost experiments that might be interesting:
* Leidenfrost wheels:
* Leidenfrost maze:
* Leidenfrost explosions:

Special thanks to Patreon supporters:
Donal Botkin, James M Nicholson, Michael Krugman, Nathan Hansen, Ron Neal, Stan Presolski, Terrance Shepherd

Thanks to Prof. Kevin McKeegan at UCLA for the liquid nitrogen

Filming by Raquel Nuno

Additional animations by Alan Chamberlain


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  1. And the best thing about audible is you can even hear your audiobook and then give it back ^^. It works about 30 times before you can't do it, but then you can just go to a support live chat and ask them if they can give some books back for you and they just do it. So I basically use it as a library for $10 a month. It's very nice!!

  2. "…why would there be a wave?" It seems obvious if you understand how sound travels… But…

    Because the vapor that is the inverse effect breaks the surface tension when you drop it in. Effectively the mass of the oil pushes the vapor to create the ripple in the nitrogen.

    It's like a self fulfilling prophecy…

  3. I would hypothesize that the drop is being propelled by the Magnus-effect. The initial imbalance causes a motion in one specific direction ( over the alternative vector ), and the evaporating liquid nitrogen vapor moving differentially quickly over the 'front' side of the droplet ( the side facing its forward motion vector ) produces lift in that direction. I'm hypothesizing that its 'forward' motion is due to the Magnus effect instead of the Bernoulli effect because I would expect the oil droplet to have some form of angular momentum upon forming, and this angular momentum likely causes the droplet's initial direction of travel, and initializes the Magnus effect due to its initial spin. All just a guess, but one I'd bet some cookies on….

  4. Two things, first of all change the name since this video has only a little more than a third of another video that incorporates the Leidenfrost effect and is only a year older (with less subscribers). The second thing, more importantly, would this demonstration work in a vacuum and could this effect also happen in the absence of gravity?

  5. Thats all very interesting, but another even more interesting phenomenon is seen when, during heavy rain; splash droplets are seen to ride upon the surface of a puddle instead of being subsumed. the smallest ones can remain floating for quite a while. this requires fairly pure, cold water: I assume it is beacuse the surface tension of the water surfaces has bound up almost all the loose surface charges, or perhaps it's a clue to the molecular structure of the surfaces, which seem to not mesh readily. It is not an uncommon phenomonon, but I would love to see it investigated.

  6. Maybe we need places like Veritasium and other science folks on YouTube to do the replication studies that are really essential to advance scientific discoveries, but aren't often funded or published in the Science journals.