The effects of polymer molecular weight on filament thinning and drop breakup in microchannels

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We investigate the effects of fluid elasticity on the dynamics of filament thinning and drop breakup processes in a cross-slot microchannel. Elasticity effects are examined using dilute aqueous polymeric solutions of molecular weight (MW) ranging from 1.5×103 to 1.8×107. Results for polymeric fluids are compared to those for a viscous Newtonian fluid. The shearing or continuous phase that induces breakup is mineral oil. All fluids possess similar shear-viscosity (~0.2 Pa s) so that the viscosity ratio between the oil and aqueous phases is close to unity. Measurements of filament thickness as a function of time show different thinning behavior for the different aqueous fluids. For Newtonian fluids, the thinning process shows a single exponential decay of the filament thickness. For low MW fluids (103, 104 and 105), the thinning process also shows a single exponential decay, but with a decay rate that is slower than for the Newtonian fluid. The decay time increases with polymer MW. For high MW (106 and 107) fluids, the initial exponential decay crosses over to a second exponential decay in which elastic stresses are important. We show that the decay rate of the filament thickness in this exponential decay regime can be used to measure the steady extensional viscosity of the fluids. At late times, all fluids cross over to an algebraic decay which is driven mainly by surface tension.

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Suggested Citation: Arratia, Paulo, et. al. (2009) The effects of polymer molecular weight on filament thinning and drop breakup in microchannels. New Journal of Physics. Vol. 11. November 2009. This article is available online at
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