Comparison between shadow imaging and in-line holography for measuring droplet size distributions

Martin A. Erinin, Baptiste Néel, Megan T. Mazzatenta, James H. Duncan, Luc Deike

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

4 Scopus citations


A direct comparison of the droplet size and number measurements using in-line holography and shadow imaging is presented in three dynamically evolving laboratory scale experiments. The two experimental techniques and image processing algorithms used to measure droplet number and radii are described in detail. Droplet radii as low as r= 14 µm are measured using in-line holography and r= 50 µm using shadow imaging. The droplet radius measurement error is estimated using a calibration target (reticle) and it was found that the holographic technique is able to measure droplet radii more accurately than shadow imaging for droplets with r≤ 625 µm. Using the measurements of droplet number and size we quantitatively cross-validate and assess the accuracy of the two measurement techniques. The droplet size distributions, N(r), are measured in all three experiments and are found to agree well between the two measurement techniques. In one of the laboratory experiments, simultaneous measurements of droplets (r≥ 14 µm, using holography) and dry aerosols (0.07 ⪅ r⪅ 2 µm, using an scanning mobility particle sizer and 0.15 ⪅ r⪅ 5 µm using an optical particle sizer) are reported, one of the first such comparison to the best of our knowledge. The total number and volume of droplets is found to agree well between both techniques in the three experiments. We demonstrate that a relatively simple shadow imaging technique can be just as reliable when compared to a more sophisticated holographic measurement technique over their common droplet radius measurement range. The agreement in results is shown to be valid over a large range of droplet concentrations, which include experiments with relatively sparse droplet concentrations as low as 0.02 droplets per image. Advantages and disadvantages for the two techniques are discussed in the context of our results. The main advantages to in-line holography are the greater accuracy in droplet radius measurement, greater spatial resolution, larger depth of field, and the high repetition rate and short pulse duration of the laser light source. In comparison, the main advantages to shadow imaging are the simpler experimental setup, image processing algorithm, and fewer computer resources necessary for image processing. Droplet statistics like number and size are found to be very reliable between the two methods for large range of droplet densities, Pr>50 , ranging from 10 - 4≤ Pr>50≤ 10 - 1 cm - 3 , when the two techniques are implemented as shown in this paper.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Article number96
JournalExperiments in Fluids
Issue number5
StatePublished - May 2023

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • Computational Mechanics
  • Mechanics of Materials
  • General Physics and Astronomy
  • Fluid Flow and Transfer Processes


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