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Published November 1, 1999 | public
Journal Article Open

The development of transient fingering patterns during the spreading of surfactant coated films


The spontaneous spreading of an insoluble surfactant monolayer on a thin liquid film produces a complex waveform whose time variant shape is strongly influenced by the surface shear stress. This Marangoni stress produces a shocklike front at the leading edge of the spreading monolayer and significant film thinning near the source. For sufficiently thin films or large initial shear stress, digitated structures appear in the wake of the advancing monolayer. These structures funnel the oncoming flow into small arteries that continuously tip-split to produce spectacular dendritic shapes. A previous quasisteady modal analysis has predicted stable flow at asymptotically long times [Phys. Fluids A 9, 3645 (1997)]. A more recent transient analysis has revealed large amplification in the disturbance film thickness at early times [O. K. Matar and S. M. Troian, "Growth of nonmodal transient structures during the spreading of surfactant coated films," Phys. Fluids A 10, 1234 (1998)]. In this paper, we report results of an extended sensitivity analysis which probes two aspects of the flow: the time variant character of the base state and the non-normal character of the disturbance operators. The analysis clearly identifies Marangoni forces as the main source of digitation for both small and large wave number disturbances. Furthermore, initial conditions which increase the initial shear stress or which steepen the shape of the advancing front produce a larger transient response and deeper corrugations in the film. Disturbances applied just ahead of the deposited monolayer rapidly fall behind the advancing front eventually settling in the upstream region where their mobility is hampered. Recent findings confirm that additional forces which promote film thinning can further intensify disturbances [O. K. Matar and S. M. Troian, "Spreading of surfactant monolayer on a thin liquid film: Onset and evolution of digitated structures," Chaos 9, 141 (1999). The transient analysis presented here corroborates our previous results for asymptotic stability but reveals a source for digitation at early times. The energy decomposition lends useful insight into the actual mechanisms preventing efficacious distribution of surfactant.

Additional Information

©1999 American Institute of Physics. (Received 6 June 1998; accepted 19 July 1999) This work was supported by the NSF through a Research Initiation Award (CTS-9409579) and a Career Award (CTS-9624776).


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