Article

The shape of charged drops over a solid surface and symmetry-breaking instabilities

SIAM Journal on Applied Mathematics (Impact Factor: 1.58). 01/2008; DOI: 10.1137/080713707
Source: DBLP

ABSTRACT We study the static shape of charged drops of a conducting fluid placed over a solid substrate, surrounded by a gas, and in absence of gravitational forces. The question can be formulated as a variational problem where a certain energy involving the areas of the solid-liquid interface and of the liquid-gas interface, as well as the electric capacity of the drop, has to be minimized. As a function of two parameters, Young’s angle µY and the potential at the drop’s surface V0, we find the axisymmetric minimizers of the energy and describe their shape. We also discuss the existence of symmetry-breaking bifurcations such that, for given values of µY and V0, configurations for which the axial symmetry is lost are energetically more favorable than axially symmetric configurations. We prove the existence of such bifurcations in the limits of very flat and almost spherical equilibrium shapes. All other cases are studied numerically with a boundary integral method. One conclusion of this study is that axisymmetric drops cannot spread indefinitely by introducing sufficient amount of electric charges, but can reach only a limiting (saturation) size, after which the axial symmetry would be lost and finger-like shapes energetically preferred.

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