Effects of surfactant on liquid film thickness in the Bretherton problem

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Abstract

The effects of insoluble and soluble surfactant on the motion of a long bubble propagating through a capillary tube are investigated computationally using a finite-difference/front-tracking method. Emphasis is placed on the effects of surfactant on the liquid film thickness between the bubble and the tube wall. The numerical method is designed to solve the evolution equations of the interfacial and bulk surfactant concentrations coupled with the incompressible Navier-Stokes equations. A non-linear equation of state is used to relate surface tension coefficient to surfactant concentration at the interface. Computations are first performed for soluble cases and then repeated for the corresponding clean and insoluble cases for a wide range of governing non-dimensional parameters in order to investigate the effects of surfactant and surfactant solubility. The computed film thickness for the clean case is found to be in a good agreement with Taylor's law indicating the accuracy of the numerical method. We found that both the insoluble and soluble surfactant generally have a thickening effect on the film thickness, which is especially pronounced at low capillary numbers. This thickening effect strengthens with increasing sensitivity of surface tension to interfacial surfactant coverage mainly due to the enhanced Marangoni stresses along the liquid film. It is also observed that film thickening shows a non-monotonic behavior for variations in Peclet number. The validity of insoluble surfactant assumption is assessed for various non-dimensional numbers and it is demonstrated that insoluble assumption is valid only when capillary number is very low, i.e., Ca≪ 1 and when surface tension is highly sensitive to interfacial surfactant coverage, i.e., the elasticity number is large. © 2012 Elsevier Ltd.

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Olgac, U., & Muradoglu, M. (2013). Effects of surfactant on liquid film thickness in the Bretherton problem. International Journal of Multiphase Flow, 48, 58–70. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.ijmultiphaseflow.2012.08.007

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