A Computational Study of the Coalescence between a Drop and an Interface in Newtonian and Viscoelastic Fluids

Pengtao Yue, Chunfeng Zhou & James J. Feng

Phys. Fluids 18, 102102 (2006)

Abstract - A drop falling onto a fluid-fluid interface may not merge with it at once but undergo a so-called partial coalescence cascade. Experimental observations of this phenomenon have revealed fascinating features of the process for Newtonian as well as polymeric fluids. In this paper, we describe numerical simulations of partial coalescence based on a phase-field method. Results show that partial coalescence occurs for an intermediate range of drop sizes, and proceeds in two stages: capillary waves propagating along the drop and transforming it into a fluid column, and neck formation on the column and pinch-off of the secondary drop. In the first stage, interfacial energy turns into kinetic energy following film rupture, while in the second, the kinetic energy overcomes an energy barrier due to the initial increase in interfacial area during neck formation. A parametric study establishes a criterion for partial coalescence in terms of a maximum Ohnesorge number that applies to a wide range of fluid densities and viscosities as long as the Bond number is small. Viscoelasticity in either the drop or the matrix tends to delay the pinch-off of the secondary drop, and may even suppress partial coalescence altogether. The underlying mechanism is large tensile polymer stresses resisting the stretching and thinning of the fluid neck. The numerical results are in qualitative, and in some cases quantitative, agreement with prior experiments.