Journal of Fluid Mechanics


Initial breakup of a small-diameter liquid jet by a high-speed gas stream

C. M. VARGA a1p1, J. C. LASHERAS a1 and E. J. HOPFINGER a2
a1 Department of Mechanical and Aerospace Engineering, University of California, San Diego, La Jolla, CA 92093-0411, USA
a2 LEGI–CNRS/UJF/INPG, BP 53, 38041 Grenoble Cedex, France

Article author query
varga c   [Google Scholar] 
lasheras j   [Google Scholar] 
hopfinger e   [Google Scholar] 


The situation of a small-diameter liquid jet exposed to a large-diameter high-speed gas jet (gas-to-liquid nozzle area ratio of order 100 to 1000) is investigated experimentally. Flow visualization and particle-sizing techniques are employed to examine the initial jet breakup process and primary liquid atomization. Observations of the initial breakup of the liquid jet in the near-nozzle region, combined with droplet-size mea-surements, are used in an effort to elucidate the dominant mechanism of primary breakup of the liquid. It is shown that for large aerodynamic Weber numbers, the bulk of the liquid atomization is completed within a few gas-jet diameters of the nozzle exit, inside of the potential cone of the gas flow. Breakup is therefore completed within the zone of constant ambient gas velocity. It is argued that the mechanism of initial jet breakup is similar to that of a liquid drop suddenly exposed to a high-speed gas stream. A phenomenological breakup model is proposed for the initial droplet size, based upon the accelerative, secondary destabilization (via Rayleigh–Taylor instability) of the liquid wave crests resulting from the primary Kelvin–Helmholtz instability of the liquid jet surface. Primary mean droplet sizes are shown to scale well on the most unstable Rayleigh–Taylor wavelength, and the dependence of the droplet diameter on both the atomizing gas velocity and the liquid surface tension are successfully captured by the proposed breakup model.

(Received April 8 2003)
(Revised June 23 2003)

p1 Present address: Nektar Therapeutics, San Carlos, CA 94070, USA.