Partial coalescence from bubbles to drops

F. H. Zhang, Marie-Jean Thoraval, Sigurdur T Thoroddsen, P. Taborek

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

35 Scopus citations


The coalescence of drops is a fundamental process in the coarsening of emulsions. However, counter-intuitively, this coalescence process can produce a satellite, approximately half the size of the original drop, which is detrimental to the overall coarsening. This also occurs during the coalescence of bubbles, while the resulting satellite is much smaller, approximately 10 %. To understand this difference, we have conducted a set of coalescence experiments using xenon bubbles inside a pressure chamber, where we can continuously raise the pressure from 1 up to 85 atm and thereby vary the density ratio between the inner and outer fluid, from 0.005 up to unity. Using high-speed video imaging, we observe a continuous increase in satellite size as the inner density is varied from the bubble to emulsion-droplet conditions, with the most rapid changes occurring as the bubble density grows up to 15 % of that of the surrounding liquid. We propose a model that successfully relates the satellite size to the capillary wave mode responsible for its pinch-off and the overall deformations from the drainage. The wavelength of the primary wave changes during its travel to the apex, with the instantaneous speed adjusting to the local wavelength. By estimating the travel time of this wave mode on the bubble surface, we also show that the model is consistent with the experiments. This wavenumber is determined by both the global drainage as well as the interface shapes during the rapid coalescence in the neck connecting the two drops or bubbles. The rate of drainage is shown to scale with the density of the inner fluid. Empirically, we find that the pinch-off occurs when 60 % of the bubble fluid has drained from it. Numerical simulations using the volume-of-fluid method with dynamic adaptive grid refinement can reproduce these dynamics, as well as show the associated vortical structure and stirring of the coalescing fluid masses. Enhanced stirring is observed for cases with second-stage pinch-offs. Numerous sub-satellites are observed when the length of the top protrusion of the drop exceeds the Rayleigh instability wavelength. We also find a parameter regime where the focusing of more than one capillary wave can pinch-off satellites. One realization shows a sequence of three pinch-offs, where the middle one pinches off a toroidal bubble.
Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)209-239
Number of pages31
JournalJournal of Fluid Mechanics
StatePublished - Oct 7 2015

Bibliographical note

KAUST Repository Item: Exported on 2020-10-01
Acknowledgements: The research reported in this publication was supported by King Abdullah University of Science and Technology (KAUST). P.T. acknowledges support from NSF DMR-0907495.


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