The rise of Newtonian drops in a nematic liquid crystal

Chunfeng Zhou, Pengtao Yue & James J. Feng

J. Fluid Mech. 593, 385-404 (2007) 

Abstract - We simulate the rise of Newtonian drops in a nematic liquid crystal parallel to the far-field molecular orientation. The moving interface is computed in a diffuse-interface framework, and the anisotropic rheology of the liquid crystal is represented by the Leslie-Ericksen theory, regularized to permit topological defects. Results reveal interesting coupling between the flow field and the orientational field surrounding the drop, especially the defect configuration. The flow generally sweeps the point and ring defects downstream, and may transform a ring defect into a point defect. The stability of these defects and their transformation are depicted in a phase diagram in terms of the Ericksen number and the ratio between surface anchoring and bulk elastic energies. The nematic orientation affects the flow field in return. Drops with planar anchoring on the surface rise faster than those with homeotropic anchoring, and the former features a vortex ring in the wake. These are attributed to the viscous anisotropy of the nematic. With homeotropic anchoring, the drop rising velocity experiences an overshoot, owing to the transformation of the initial surface ring defect to a satellite point defect. With both types of anchoring, the drag coefficient of the drop decreases with increasing Ericksen number as the flow-alignment of the nematic orientation reduces the effective viscosity of the liquid crystal.