Motion of an oil droplet through a capillary with charged surfaces

Grassia, P. (2019) Motion of an oil droplet through a capillary with charged surfaces. Journal of Fluid Mechanics, 866. pp. 721-758. ISSN 0022-1120 (

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A model developed by Wilmott et al. (J. Fluid Mech., vol. 841, 2018, pp. 310-350) for the advance of a charged oil droplet along a charged capillary pore is considered. The oil droplet is surrounded by an aqueous phase filling the pore, and the model considers a uniformly curved capillary static droplet front plus an aqueous thin film separating the body of the oil droplet from the capillary wall, with these two regions being joined by a transition region. The methodology follows a classical asymptotic approach proposed by Bretherton (J. Fluid Mech., vol. 10, 1961, pp. 166-188) but incorporates additional electro-osmotic effects (specifically an electro-osmotic disjoining tension) due to the charged surfaces. A number of dimensionless parameters control the model's behaviour, of which the most important is denoted and represents the ratio between the 'nominal' thickness of the aqueous film (as determined neglecting any electrostatic effects) and the Debye length within the film, which is sensitive to ion concentrations and hence to salinity. When is large, electro-osmotic effects are screened and Bretherton's classical results are recovered. However as decreases, electro-osmotic effects come into play and the film becomes much thicker than Bretherton's prediction to ensure that screening effects are not altogether lost, and also there is a noticeable increase in the pressure needed to drive the droplet front along. These results apply with minor variations in the case of singly charged surfaces (charge on either oil or on the capillary wall), oil and wall surfaces with like charges, or oil and wall surfaces with opposite but unequal charges. However in the case of opposite and equal charges, the system's behaviour changes dramatically. There is now a conjoining electro-osmotic pressure rather than a disjoining tension, the film becomes thinner than the analogous Bretherton film, and the pressure needed to drive the droplet front along decreases. Surprisingly in this case, for sufficiently small , the work done by the conjoining pressure can exceed the work done against viscous dissipation, meaning the pressure required to drive the droplet front is not just smaller than in Bretherton's predictions but also slightly less than would be estimated based on capillary forces alone. Although the main effect of reducing salinity is to increase Debye length and hence reduce , salinity also affects surface charges. A situation is explored whereby reducing salinity affects charges, producing a switch from disjoining tensions to conjoining pressures and back again: This leads to a non-monotonic response in film thickness and pressure required to drive the droplet front along.