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Research solves centuries-old riddle

Photo of Prof. Srinivasan Chandrasekar
Prof. Srinivasan Chandrasekar holds
a Prince Rupert's Drop
(Photo: Trevor Mahlmann
IE's Srinivasan Chandrasekar, Professor and Director of the Purdue Center for Materials Processing and Tribology, and his international research team have solved the 400-year-old mystery of Prince Rupert's Drops. The team used integrated photoelasticity to measure the complex stress distribution that give these glass drops their shatter-resistant behavior.

"Since the seventeenth century, famous scientists and natural philosophers have been trying to understand the exceptional properties of these drops," said Srinivasan Chandrasekar, a Purdue professor of industrial engineering and director of the university's Center for Materials Processing and Tribology. "Rupert's drops have been a curiosity for about 400 years."

These small glass structures resembling tadpoles that can withstand the blows of a hammer and yet burst into powdery dust by simply snipping their threadlike tails have been a source of fascination and mystery since they were discovered in the 17th century.

Now an international research team has pinpointed the source of the bizarre shatter-resistant behavior behind Prince Rupert's drops. The work was a collaboration of researchers from Purdue University, the University of Cambridge in the UK, and Tallinn University of Technology in Estonia.

Article courtesy of Purdue News - read the full story.