Droplet snap-off and coalescence in colloidal (lyotropic) liquid crystals

7 February 2014
Lia Verhoeff (Chemistry, Oxford)

Droplet snap-off and coalescence are very rich hydrodynamic phenomena that are even richer in liquid crystals where both the bulk phase and the interface have anisotropic properties. We studied both phenomena in suspensions of colloidal platelets with isotropic-nematic phase coexistence.

We observed two different scenarios for droplet snap-off depending on the relative values of the elastic constant and anchoring strength, in both cases markedly different from Newtonian pinching.[1] Furthermore, we studied coalescence of nematic droplets with the bulk nematic phase. For small droplets this qualitatively resembles coalescence in isotropic fluids, while larger droplets act as if they are immiscible with their own bulk phase. We also observed an interesting deformation of the director field inside the droplets as they sediment towards the bulk phase, probably as a result of flow inside the droplet. Finally, we found that mutual droplet coalescence is accompanied by large droplet deformations that closely resemble coalescence of isotropic droplets.[2]

[1] A.A. Verhoeff and H.N.W. Lekkerkerker, N. J. Phys. 14, 023010 (2012)

[2] M. Manga and H.A. Stone, J. Fluid Mech. 256, 647 (1993)

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