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Published January 1, 2003 | public
Journal Article Open

Influence of attractive van der Waals interactions on the optimal excitations in thermocapillary-driven spreading


Recent investigations of microfluidic flows have focused on manipulating the motion of very thin liquid films by modulating the surface tension through an applied streamwise temperature gradient. The extent to which the choice of contact line model affects the flow and stability of such thermocapillary-driven films is not completely understood. Regardless of the contact line model used, the linearized disturbance operator corresponding to the evolution of the film height is non-normal, and a generalized non-modal stability analysis is required. Surprisingly, early predictions of frontal instability that stemmed from conventional modal analysis of thermocapillary flow on a flat, infinite precursor film showed excellent agreement with experiment. Within the more rigorous framework provided by a generalized stability analysis, this work investigates the transient dynamics and amplification of optimal disturbances subject to a finite precursor film generated by attractive van der Waals forces. Convergence of the disturbance growth rates and perturbed shapes to the asymptotic solutions obtained by conventional linear stability analysis occurs early in the spreading process. In addition, the level of transient disturbance amplification is minimal. The equations governing thermocapillary-driven spreading exhibit a small degree of non-normality, which explains the source of agreement between modal theory and experiment. The more rigorous generalized stability analysis presented here, however, affords critical insight into the types of disturbances leading to maximum unstable growth and the exact influence of the contact line model used.

Additional Information

©2003 The American Physical Society (Received 9 March 2002; revised 12 November 2002; published 30 January 2003) The authors gratefully acknowledge financial support from the Department of Defense (JMD), the National Science Foundation XYZ on a Chip program, and a Princeton University MRSEC grant.


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