Journal of Fluid Mechanics

A computational analysis of electrohydrodynamics of a leaky dielectric drop in an electric field

James Q.  Feng a1 1 and Timothy C.  Scott a1
a1 Chemical Technology Division, Oak Ridge National Laboratory, Oak Ridge, TN 37831-6224, USA

Article author query
feng jq   [Google Scholar] 
scott tc   [Google Scholar] 


Axisymmetric steady flows driven by an electric field about a deformable fluid drop suspended in an immiscible fluid are studied within the framework of the leaky dielectric model. Deformations of the drop and the flow fields are determined by solving the nonlinear free-boundary problem composed of the Navier-Stokes system governing the flow field and Laplace's system governing the electric field. The solutions are obtained by using the Galerkin finite-element method with an elliptic mesh generation scheme. Under conditions of creeping flow and vanishingly small drop deformations, the results of finite-element computations recover the asymptotic results. When drop deformations become noticeable, the asymptotic results are often found to underestimate both the flow intensity and drop deformation. By tracking solution branches in parameter space with an arc-length continuation method, curves in parameter space of the drop deformation parameter D versus the square of the dimensionless field strength E usually exhibit a turning point when E reaches a critical value Ec. Along such a family of drop shapes, steady solutions do not exist for E > Ec. The nonlinear relationship revealed computationally between D and E2 appears to be capable of providing insight into discrepancies reported in the literature between experiments and predictions based on the asymptotic theory. In some special cases with fluid conductivities closely matched, however, drop deformations are found to grow with E2 indefinitely and no critical value Ec is encountered by the corresponding solution branches. For most cases with realistic values of physical properties, the overall electrohydrodynamic behaviour is relatively insensitive to effects of finite-Reynolds-number flow. However, under extreme conditions when fluids of very low viscosities are involved, computational results illustrate a remarkable shape turnaround phenomenon: a drop with oblate deformation at low field strength can evolve into a prolate-like drop shape as the field strength is increased.

(Received March 7 1995)
(Revised October 31 1995)


1 Also affiliated with the Department of Chemical Engineering, University of Tennessee. Present Address: Xerox Corporation, Wilson Center for Research & Technology, 800 Phillips Road, Webster, NY 14580, USA.