Journal of Fluid Mechanics


Drop fragmentation on impact


a1 IRPHE, Aix-Marseille Université, 13384 Marseille CEDEX 13, France


We address the sequence of events accompanying the transition from an initially compact volume of liquid – a drop – into dispersed fragments when it impacts a solid surface. We describe the change of topology of the drop to a radially expanding sheet and discuss the reasons of its rim destabilization, responsible for the emergence of radial ligaments which ultimately fragment into smaller drops. The dynamics ruling the radius of the sheet, its stability and the resulting fragment drop size distribution are documented experimentally. The radius dynamics results from a simple balance between inertia of the initial drop and capillary restoring forces at the rim, with damping due to the continuous transfer of momentum from the sheet to the rim. The ligaments expelled from the rim originate from a Rayleigh–Taylor mechanism localized at the rim. The final drop size distribution in the spray is shown to be a linear superposition of gamma distributions characteristic of ligament breakup, leading generically to Bessel functions.

(Received December 04 2008)

(Revised September 10 2010)

(Accepted September 12 2010)

(Online publication January 26 2011)

Key words:

  • aerosols/atomization;
  • instability


c1 Also at Institut Universitaire de France, 75005 Paris, France. Email address for correspondence:

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