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Published January 1955 | Reprint
Journal Article Open

On the Dynamics of Small Vapor Bubbles in Liquids


When a vapor bubble in a liquid changes size, evaporation or condensation of the vapor takes place at the surface of the bubble. Because of the latent heat requirement of evaporation, a change in bubble size must therefore be accompanied by a heat transfer across the bubble wall, such as to cool the surrounding liquid when the bubble grows (or heat it when the bubble becomes smaller). Since the vapor pressure at the bubble wall is determined by the temperature there, the result of a cooling of the liquid is a decrease of the vapor pressure, and this causes a decrease in the rate of bubble growth. A similar effect occurs during the collapse of a bubble which tends to slow down the collapse. In order to obtain a satisfactory theory of the behavior of a vapor bubble in a liquid, these heat transfer effects must be taken into account. In this paper, the equations of motion for a spherical vapor bubble will be derived and applied to the case of a bubble expanding in superheated liquid and a bubble collapsing in liquid below its boiling point. Because of the inclusion of the heat transfer effects, the equations are nonlinear, integro-differential equations. In the case of the collapsing bubble, large temperature variations occur; therefore, tabulated vapor pressure data were used, and the equations of motion were integrated numerically. Analytic solutions are obtainable for the case of the expanding bubble if the period of growth is subdivided into several regimes and the simplifications possible in each regime are utilized. The growth is considered here only during the time that the bubble is small. An asymptotic solution of the equations of motion, valid when the bubble becomes large (i.e. observable), has been presented previously, together with experimental verification. We shall be specifically concerned in the following discussion with the dynamics of vapor bubbles in water. This restriction was made for convenience only, since the theory is applicable without modification to many other liquids.

Additional Information

This study was supported by the U. S. Office of Naval Research Received March 9, 1954.

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