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Published September 1, 2006 | public
Journal Article Open

Transient dynamics and structure of optimal excitations in thermocapillary spreading: Precursor film model


Linearized modal stability theory has shown that the thermocapillary spreading of a liquid film on a homogeneous, completely wetting surface can produce a rivulet instability at the advancing front due to formation of a capillary ridge. Mechanisms that drain fluid from the ridge can stabilize the flow against rivulet formation. Numerical predictions from this analysis for the film speed, shape, and most unstable wavelength agree remarkably well with experimental measurements even though the linearized disturbance operator is non-normal, which allows transient growth of perturbations. Our previous studies using a more generalized nonmodal stability analysis for contact lines models describing partially wetting liquids (i.e., either boundary slip or van der Waals interactions) have shown that the transient amplification is not sufficient to affect the predictions of eigenvalue analysis. In this work we complete examination of the various contact line models by studying the influence of an infinite and flat precursor film, which is the most commonly employed contact line model for completely wetting films. The maximum amplification of arbitrary disturbances and the optimal initial excitations that elicit the maximum growth over a specified time, which quantify the sensitivity of the film to perturbations of different structure, are presented. While the modal results for the three different contact line models are essentially indistinguishable, the transient dynamics and maximum possible amplification differ, which suggests different transient dynamics for completely and partially wetting films. These differences are explained by the structure of the computed optimal excitations, which provides further basis for understanding the agreement between experiment and predictions of conventional modal analysis.

Additional Information

©2006 American Institute of Physics (Received 15 February 2006; accepted 7 August 2006; published online 5 September 2006) This work was partially supported by the National Science Foundation (CTS and ECS programs) and the NASA Microgravity Fluid Physics Program. S.M.T. also gratefully acknowledges the financial support of the Moore Distinguished Scholar Program at the California Institute of Technology.


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