Journal of Fluid Mechanics


A diffuse-interface method for simulating two-phase flows of complex fluids

a1 Department of Chemical and Biological Engineering and Department of Mathematics, University of British Columbia, Vancouver, BC V6T 1Z4, Canada
a2 Department of Mathematics, The Pennsylvania State University, University Park, PA 16802, USA
a3 Department of Mathematics, Purdue University, West Lafayette, IN 47907, USA

Article author query
yue p   [Google Scholar] 
feng jj   [Google Scholar] 
liu c   [Google Scholar] 
shen j   [Google Scholar] 


Two-phase systems of microstructured complex fluids are an important class of engineering materials. Their flow behaviour is interesting because of the coupling among three disparate length scales: molecular or supra-molecular conformation inside each component, mesoscopic interfacial morphology and macroscopic hydrodynamics. In this paper, we propose a diffuse-interface approach to simulating the flow of such materials. The diffuse-interface model circumvents certain numerical difficulties in tracking the interface in the classical sharp-interface description. More importantly, our energy-based variational formalism makes it possible to incorporate complex rheology easily, as long as it is due to the evolution of a microstructure describable by a free energy. Thus, complex rheology and interfacial dynamics are treated in a unified framework. An additional advantage of our model is that the energy law of the system guarantees the existence of a solution. We will outline the general approach for any two-phase complex fluids, and then present, as an example, a detailed formulation for an emulsion of nematic drops in a Newtonian matrix. Using spectral discretizations, we compute shear-induced deformation, head-on collision and coalescence of drops where the matrix and drop phases are Newtonian or viscoelastic Oldroyd-B fluids. Numerical results are compared with previous studies as a validation of the theoretical model and numerical code. Finally, we simulate the retraction of an extended nematic drop in a Newtonian matrix as a method for measuring interfacial tension.

(Received November 10 2003)
(Revised May 7 2004)