Journal of Fluid Mechanics

The motion of long bubbles in polygonal capillaries. Part 1. Thin films

Harris  Wong a1p1, C. J.  Radke a2 and S.  Morris a1
a1 Department of Mechanical Engineering, University of California, Berkeley, CA 94720, USA
a2 Earth Sciences Division of Lawrence Berkeley Laboratory and Department of Chemical Engineering, University of California, Berkeley, CA 94720, USA

Article author query
wong h   [Google Scholar] 
radke cj   [Google Scholar] 
morris s   [Google Scholar] 


Foam in porous media exhibits an unusually high apparent viscosity, making it useful in many industrial processes. The rheology of foam, however, is complex and not well understood. Previous pore-level models of foam are based primarily on studies of bubble flow in circular capillaries. A circular capillary, however, lacks the corners that characterize the geometry of the pores. We study the pressure–velocity relation of bubble flow in polygonal capillaries. A long bubble in a polygonal capillary acts as a leaky piston. The ‘piston’ is reluctant to move because of a large drag exerted by the capillary sidewalls. The liquid in the capillary therefore bypasses the bubble through the leaky corners at a speed an order higher than that of the bubble. Consequently, the pressure work is dissipated predominantly by the motion of the fluid and not by the motion of the bubble. This is opposite to the conclusion based on bubble flow in circular capillaries. The discovery of this new flow regime reconciles two groups of contradictory foam-flow experiments.

Part 1 of this work studies the fluid films deposited on capillary walls in the limit Ca [rightward arrow] 0 (Ca [identical with] μU/σ, where μ is the fluid viscosity, U the bubble velocity, and σ the surface tension). Part 2 (Wong et al. 1995) uses the film profile at the back end to calculate the drag of the bubble. Since the bubble length is arbitrary, the film profile is determined here as a general function of the dimensionless downstream distance x. For 1 [double less-than sign] x [double less-than sign] Ca−1, the film profile is frozen with a thickness of order Ca2/3 at the centre and order Ca at the sides. For x [similar] Ca−1, surface tension rearranges the film at the centre into a parabolic shape while the film at the sides thins to order Ca4/3. For x [dbl greater-than sign] Ca−1, the film is still parabolic, but the height decreases as film fluid leaks through the side constrictions. For x [similar] Ca−5/3, the height of the parabola is order Ca2/3. Finally, for x [dbl greater-than sign] Ca−5/3, the height decreases as Ca1/4x−1/4.

(Published Online April 26 2006)
(Received January 22 1993)
(Revised September 26 1994)

p1 Present address: The Levich Institute, The City College of CUNY, New York, NY 10031. USA