Film thickness distribution in gravity-driven pancake-shaped droplets rising in a Hele-Shaw cell

Research paper by Isha Shukla, Nicolas Kofman, Gioele Balestra, Lailai Zhu, François Gallaire

Indexed on: 10 Jun '20Published on: 10 Sep '19Published in: Journal of fluid mechanics


We study here experimentally, numerically and using a lubrication approach, the shape, velocity and lubrication film thickness distribution of a droplet rising in a vertical Hele-Shaw cell. The droplet is surrounded by a stationary immiscible fluid and moves purely due to buoyancy. A low density difference between the two media helps to operate in a regime with capillary number $Ca$ lying between $0.03$ and $0.35$ , where $Ca=\unicode[STIX]{x1D707}_{o}U_{d}/\unicode[STIX]{x1D6FE}$ is built with the surrounding oil viscosity $\unicode[STIX]{x1D707}_{o}$ , the droplet velocity $U_{d}$ and surface tension $\unicode[STIX]{x1D6FE}$ . The experimental data show that in this regime the droplet velocity is not influenced by the thickness of the thin lubricating film and the dynamic meniscus. For iso-viscous cases, experimental and three-dimensional numerical results of the film thickness distribution agree well with each other. The mean film thickness is well captured by the Aussillous & Quéré (Phys. Fluids, vol. 12 (10), 2000, pp. 2367–2371) model with fitting parameters. The droplet also exhibits the ‘catamaran’ shape that has been identified experimentally for a pressure-driven counterpart (Huerre et al., Phys. Rev. Lett., vol. 115 (6), 2015, 064501). This pattern has been rationalized using a two-dimensional lubrication equation. In particular, we show that this peculiar film thickness distribution is intrinsically related to the anisotropy of the fluxes induced by the droplet’s motion.