Rivulet flow over a flexible beam

P. D. Howell, H. Kim, M. G. Popova, Howard A. Stone

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

8 Scopus citations


We study theoretically and experimentally how a thin layer of liquid flows along a flexible beam. The flow is modelled using lubrication theory and the substrate is modelled as an elastica which deforms according to the Euler-Bernoulli equation. A constant flux of liquid is supplied at one end of the beam, which is clamped horizontally, while the other end of the beam is free. As the liquid film spreads, its weight causes the beam deflection to increase, which in turn enhances the spreading rate of the liquid. This feedback mechanism causes the front position σ (t) and the deflection angle at the front φ (t) to go through a number of different power-law behaviours. For early times, the liquid spreads like a horizontal gravity current, with σ (t) ∝ t4/5 and φ (t) ∝ t13/5. For intermediate times, the deflection of the beam leads to rapid acceleration of the liquid layer, with σ (t) ∝ t4 and φ (t) / t9. Finally, when the beam has sagged to become almost vertical, the liquid film flows downward with σ (t) ∝ t and φ (t) ∼ π=2. We demonstrate good agreement between these theoretical predictions and experimental results.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)285-305
Number of pages21
JournalJournal of Fluid Mechanics
StatePublished - Jun 10 2016

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • Condensed Matter Physics
  • Mechanics of Materials
  • Mechanical Engineering
  • Applied Mathematics


  • capillary flows
  • gravity currents
  • thin films


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