Faculty Advisor

Mark W. Richman

Faculty Advisor

David J. Olinger

Faculty Advisor

Andreas N. Alexandrou

Faculty Advisor

James C. Hermanson


"The present work is a study of the low inertia spreading dynamics of initially spherical viscous droplets on a planar interface. The droplets are affected by gravity, surface tension and viscous forces and are modeled as two-dimensional axisymmetric bodies. The main focus of this study is the examination of the dependence of droplet stability, equilibrium shape and fluid motion within the drop on the relative magnitude of these forces. The dynamics are modeled using the unsteady, non-linear Navier-Stokes equations for an incompressible fluid. The spreading of a droplet on a solid surface is modeled with both a no-slip and a partial-slip boundary condition. In addition, the spreading of a droplet on another identical drop (two-drop problem) is modeled to study the problem without the contact point singularity. The governing equations are solved numerically using the Mixed Galerkin Finite Element formulation, augmented by the use of the Newton-Raphson iteration scheme to effectively treat the non-linearities of the problem. The Generalized Eulerian Lagrangian formulation is adopted for the treatment of the moving free surface of the droplet. Computations are performed for capillary numbers ranging from 0.01 to 100 and for Reynolds numbers from 0.005 to 50, where the velocity scale is based on the droplet radius and the gravitational acceleration. For the droplet spreading on a solid surface, three distinct behaviors are observed~: for low Reynolds numbers and sufficiently high capillary numbers, droplets deform to a stable, equilibrium shape; for higher Reynolds numbers, an oscillatory droplet behavior occurs; at still higher Reynolds numbers, the droplets shatter. Very often, a recirculation is induced near the contact point just before the droplet shatters, which is also observed for the case of stable oscillating droplets. When a partial-slip boundary condition is applied, it is observed that the stability of the droplet and the rate at which the droplet attains the static contact angle depend strongly on the velocity of slip of the droplet with respect to the solid surface at the contact point. For the two-drop problem, only two distinct behaviors are observed: for low Reynolds numbers and high capillary numbers, the droplet retains a near-spherical shape and remains stable; while for higher Reynolds numbers, the droplet deforms to a high extent and becomes unstable."


Worcester Polytechnic Institute

Degree Name



Mechanical Engineering

Project Type


Date Accepted





crown, unstable, splash, viscous, spreading, stable, oscillatory, droplets, microgravity, viscosity, map, stability, solid, surface, surface tension, gravity, Galerkin methods, Reynolds number, Droplets, Viscosity