Journal article

Gravity-driven slug motion in capillary tubes

The velocity of a liquid slug falling in a capillary tube is lower than predicted for Poiseuille flow due to presence of menisci, whose shapes are determined by the complex interplay of capillary, viscous, and gravitational forces. Due to the presence of menisci, a capillary pressure proportional to surface curvature acts on the slug and streamlines are bent close to the interface, resulting in enhanced viscous dissipation at the wedges. To determine the origin of drag-force increase relative to Poiseuille flow, we compute the force resultant acting on the slug by integrating Navier–Stokes equations over the liquid volume. Invoking relationships from differential geometry we demonstrate that the additional drag is due to viscous forces only and that no capillary drag of hydrodynamic origin exists !i.e., due to hydrodynamic deformation of the interface". Requiring that the force resultant is zero, we derive scaling laws for the steady velocity in the limit of small capillary numbers by estimating the leading order viscous dissipation in the different regions of the slug !i.e., the unperturbed Poiseuille-like bulk, the static menisci close to the tube axis and the dynamic regions close to the contact lines". Considering both partial and complete wetting, we find that the relationship between dimensionless velocity and weight is, in general, nonlinear. Whereas the relationship obtained for complete-wetting conditions is found in agreement with the experimental data of Bico and Quéré #J. Bico and D. Quéré, J. Colloid Interface Sci. 243, 262 !2001"$, the scaling law under partial-wetting conditions is validated by numerical simulations performed with the Volume of Fluid method. The simulated steady velocities agree with the behavior predicted by the theoretical scaling laws in presence and in absence of static contact angle hysteresis. The numerical simulations suggest that wedge-flow dissipation alone cannot account for the entire additional drag and that the non-Poiseuille dissipation in the static menisci !not considered in previous studies" has to be considered for large contact angles.

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