Numerical Simulations of Self-Propelled Jumping upon Drop Coalescence on Non-Wetting Surfaces

Fangjie Liu, Giovanni Ghigliotti, James J. Feng & Chuan-Hua Chen

J. Fluid Mech. 752, 39-65 (2014)

Abstract - Coalescing drops spontaneously jump out of plane on a variety of biological and synthetic superhydrophobic surfaces, with potential applications ranging from self-cleaning materials to self-sustained condensers. To investigate the mechanism of the self-propelled jumping, we report three-dimensional phase-field simulations of two identical spherical drops coalescing on a flat surface with a contact angle of 180°. The numerical simulations capture the spontaneous jumping process which follows the capillary-inertial scaling. The out-of-plane directionality is shown to result from the counter action of the substrate to the impingement of the liquid bridge between the coalescing drops. A viscous cutoff to the capillary-inertial velocity scaling is identified when the Ohnesorge number of the initial drops is around 0.1, but the corresponding viscous cutoff radius is too small to be tested experimentally. Compared to experiments on both superhydrophobic and Leidenfrost surfaces, our simulations accurately predict the nearly constant jumping velocity of around 0.2 when scaled by the capillary-inertial velocity. By comparing the simulated drop coalescence processes with and without the substrate, we attribute this low non-dimensional velocity to the substrate intercepting only a small fraction of the expanding liquid bridge.