Water slug to drop and film transitions in gas-flow channels

May Jean Cheah, Ioannis G. Kevrekidis, Jay B. Benziger

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

34 Scopus citations


Water emerging from micrometer-sized pores into millimeter-sized gas-flow channels forms drops. The drops grow until the force from the flowing gas is sufficient to detach the drops as either (1) slugs that completely occlude the cross section of the channel and move at the superficial gas velocity, (2) drops that partially occlude the channel and move at a velocity that is less than the gas velocity, or (3) films that flow continuously, occluding part of the channel. At steady state, small residual water droplets, ∼100 μm in diameter, left in corners and on surface defects from previous drops, are key in determining the shape of water drops at detachment. Slugs are formed at low-gas-phase Reynolds numbers (ReG) in both hydrophilic and hydrophobic channels. Drops are shed in Teflon-coated hydrophobic channels for ReG > 30. Films are formed in acrylic hydrophilic channels for ReG > 30. Slugs form when growing drops encounter residual water droplets that nucleate the drop to slug transition. Drops are shed when the force exerted by the flowing gas on growing drops exceeds the force needed to advance the gas/liquid/solid contact line before they grow to the critical size for the drop to slug transition. Drops grow by "stick-slip" of the solid-liquid-gas contact lines and with pinned contact lines until the force on the drops results in either the downstream contact angle becoming greater than the dynamic advancing contact angle or the upstream contact angle becoming less than the dynamic receding contact angle. The upstream contact line never detaches for hydrophilic channels, which is why films form. The shape of water drops and the detachment energies are shown to be well approximated by the force balance between the force needed to advance the drop's contact lines and the force that the flowing gas exerts on a stationary drop.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)15122-15136
Number of pages15
Issue number48
StatePublished - Dec 3 2013

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • Condensed Matter Physics
  • Spectroscopy
  • General Materials Science
  • Surfaces and Interfaces
  • Electrochemistry


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