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Experimental and Numerical Investigation of the Equilibrium Geometry of Liquid Lenses

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posted on 05.10.2010, 00:00 by J. C. Burton, F. M. Huisman, P. Alison, D. Rogerson, P. Taborek
The equilibrium configuration of a nonwetted three fluid system takes the form of a floating liquid lens, where the lens resides between an upper and lower phase. The axisymmetric profiles of the three interfaces can be computed by solving the nonlinear Young−Laplace differential equation for each interface with coupled boundary conditions at the contact line. Here we describe a numerical method applicable to sessile or pendant lenses and provide a free, downloadable Mathematica Player file which uses a graphical interface for analyzing and plotting lens profiles. The results of the calculations were compared to optical photographs of various liquid lens systems which were analyzed using basic ray-tracing and Moiré imaging. The lens profile calculator, together with a measurement of the lens radius for a known volume, provides a simple and convenient method of determining the spreading coefficient (S) of a liquid lens system if all other fluid parameters are known. If surfactants are present, the subphase surface tension must also be self-consistently determined. A procedure is described for extracting characteristic features in the optical images to uniquely determine both parameters. The method gave good agreement with literature values for pure fluids such as alkanes on water and also for systems with a surfactant (hexadecane/DTAB), which show a transition from partial wetting to the pseudopartial wetting regime. Our technique is the analog of axisymmetric drop shape analysis, applied to a three fluid system.