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Lessons from artistic painting: Dynamics of viscous filaments

Event Type
Mechanical Science and Engineering
wifi event
Feb 22, 2022   4:00 pm  
Professor Roberto Zenit, School of Engineering, Brown University
Amy Rumsey
Originating Calendar
MechSE Seminars


Jackson Pollock is an American abstract painter, well known for his skillful manipulation of fluid filaments to create his famous webs of lines. By analyzing historical videos of his painting action and by replicating the technique under controlled laboratory conditions, we were able to conclude that Pollock purposedly avoided the appearance of the so-called coiling instability of viscous filaments. This analysis and discussion will be shown in this presentation.  Furthermore, this study has inspired us to continue the analysis of viscous fluid filaments in two different directions: non-Newtonian effects and flying viscous catenaries. Most commercial paints are non-Newtonian, so we wonder, does viscoelasticity change the onset of coiling instability? And, if filaments are ‘flown’ as opposed to being gently deposited, are they susceptible to other instabilities (such as Rayleigh-Plateau)? We try to answer these questions by conducting experiments under controlled laboratory conditions. This line of research shows how we can learn from artistic painters, Pollock in this particular case, to solve fluid mechanical problems relevant to engineering applications.


About the Speaker

Roberto Zenit received his Ph.D. from the Mechanical Engineering Department at Caltech in 1998. After a postdoctoral period at Cornell University, he moved to Mexico City in 2000 to become a faculty member at the Universidad Nacional Autónoma de México (UNAM), eventually becoming a Full Professor of Mechanical Engineering and a researcher at the Instituto de Investigaciones en Materiales, both at UNAM. He is now a Professor of Engineering at Brown University. He is a fellow of the APS, a member of the Mexican Academy of Sciences and the Academy of Engineering of Mexico. His area of expertise is fluid mechanics; he has worked in a wide variety of subjects including multiphase and granular flows, biological flows, rheology, and more recently, the physics of artistic painting. He is an Associate Editor for Physical Review Fluids and  Annual Review of Fluid Mechanics.



Host:  Professor Gabriel Juarez

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