Pattern Formation and Fluctuations in Liquids
The research of the group is focused on the experimental investigation of fluctuations and pattern formation in complex liquids. Research topics include non equilibrium fluctuations during diffusion processes in microgravity, hydrodynamic instabilities in complex fluids, heat transfer with smart nanofluids, hydrodynamic instabilities of liquid jets, and bio-fluidmechanics. The laboratory has a wide expertise in the development of advanced optical diagnostic techniques especially suited for the investigation of liquids in Space. In particular, in collaboration with UCSB we have developed the dynamic shadowgraphy diagnostics employed during the GRADFLEX microgravity experiment of ESA aboard FOTON M3. We have devised and developed the Near Field Scattering technique, which has been selected by ESA for the SODI-COLLOID facility aboard the International Space Station.        

April 2020

Shaping the future of space research in collaboration with industry
A new video series of the European Space Agency outlines the benefits on investigating the behavior  of fluids in the absence of gravity for the development of industrial applications

vailati fluid mixtures

May 2014

Selfishness and indifference lead to ordered grouping

Selfish behaviour often gives rise to the grouping of individuals. For example, sheep tend to group into closely packed herds to avoid the bites of a shepherd dog.

A peculiar grouping of penguins and albatrosses into common colonies has been vividly described in the nineteenth century by Edgar Allan Poe and Benjamin Morrell in their narratives of travels:  "Each albatross is surrounded by four penguins; and each penguin has an albatross for its neighbour, in four directions”.

In a recent paper published in Physical Review E we have shown  that the structures described by Poe and Morrell can be attributed to a selfish behaviour of individuals. In particular, we simulate the dynamics of a mixed colony of birds by assuming that each individual is indifferent to those belonging to the same species and tends to avoid those belonging to the opposite species. As a result of these two simple behavioural rules penguins and albatrosses arrange into networks strikingly similar to those described by Poe and Morrell. 

Read paper in PRE


neuf dix
The Giant-Fluctuations (Neuf-Dix) international space project of the European Space Agency has started. The project is aimed at the investigation of non-equlibrium fluctuations occurring diring diffusive processes in complex liquids in the absence of gravity. It will address both the fundamental understanding of diffusive processes at the mesoscopic scale and the development of innovative diagnostic tools based on the detection of non-equilibrium fluctuations. Read introductory paper in EPJE
neuf-dix partners

July 2013 - Super-highway convection


Super-highway convection
Miscible liquids flowing in opposite directions self-organize into parallel lanes, just like cars on a  super-highway. This result could help modelling some aspects of large scale motions in oceans. Read paper in Physical Review Letters

July 2013 - Super-highway Convection

September 2016

esa success

Our space project on the mixing of liquids in the absence of gravity is one of the success stories of the European Space Agency 

Sharing success stories at the "Space for Inspiration – International Space Station and beyond” event at the Science Museum, London, 14-15 September 2016. ESA, industry and experts from many disciplines look at how human spaceflight has changed our daily lives, and what the future holds.

Credits: ESA–M. Alexander

September 2014

Recently we have shown that archer fish take advantage of a hydrodynamic instability to hit prey with forces largely exceeding their muscular power (read our paper in PLOS ONE).This feature makes archer fish a notable example of animal making use of a highly sophisticated tool such as a hydrodynamic lever. 
A novel study by the group of S. Schuster at the University of Bayreuth expands on these concepts and shows that trained fish are able to control the features of the instability as a function of the distance from the target

November 2013

the physics of archer fish nicely explained by Aatish Bhatia in his blog Empirical Zeal on WIRED

October 2012

October 2012
archer fish
Archer fish shot down preys with a powerful water jet. Our paper in PLOS ONE explains how they take advantage of a hydrodynamic instability of the jet to achieve a powerful impact that largely exceeds bare muscular power

June 2012

Tunable heat transfer with smart nanofluids published in Physical Review E

October 2011

La fisica del pesce arciere al Festival Internazionale dell'ambiente:

June 2011

Watch our video on nonequilibrium fluctuations in space on ESA website.

April 2011
Results of GRADFLEX experiment onboard FOTON M3 published in Nature Communications