Symmetry breaking of a parallel two-phase flow in a finite length channel

Paul R. Kaneelil, Amir A. Pahlavan, Miguel A. Herrada, Kristen Leroy, Kylie Stengel, Samuel Warner, Anna M. Galea, Howard A. Stone

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

1 Scopus citations


Parallel two-phase flows are omnipresent in technological applications that require contact between two immiscible fluids for a finite amount of time. Precise control over the flow and separation of the fluids once they have been in contact are therefore the key challenges in these applications. Here, using experiments and numerical simulations, we show that the interface between two immiscible fluids flowing at the same flow rate in a symmetric channel can become unstable locally near the exit junction, where the two fluids are separated. This instability leads to the shedding of the droplets of one phase into the other, preventing a complete separation. We characterize this instability and show that the period of drop shedding is inversely proportional to the flow rate. We derive a stability criterion based on the balance between the Laplace pressure across the liquid-liquid interface and viscous pressure drop along each flow stream. The stability criterion and our experimental results are used to highlight the extreme sensitivity of this flow system to the parameters involved such as viscosity difference and exit geometry, which introduces gravitational effects and characteristics of the exit tubing.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Article number033904
JournalPhysical Review Fluids
Issue number3
StatePublished - Mar 2022
Externally publishedYes

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • Computational Mechanics
  • Modeling and Simulation
  • Fluid Flow and Transfer Processes


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