Dynamics of liquid plugs in prewetted capillary tubes: from acceleration and rupture to deceleration and airway obstruction
The dynamics of individual liquid plugs pushed at a constant pressure head inside prewetted cylindrical capillary tubes is investigated experimentally and theoretically. It is shown that, depending on the thickness of the prewetting film and the magnitude of the pressure head, the plugs can either experience a continuous acceleration leading to a dramatic decrease of their size and eventually their rupture or conversely, a progressive deceleration associated with their growth and an exacerbation of the airway obstruction. These behaviors are quantitatively reproduced using a simple nonlinear model [Baudoin et al., Proc. Natl. Acad. Sci. U. S. A., 2013, 110, 859] adapted here for cylindrical channels. Furthermore, an analytical criterion for the transition between these two regimes is derived and successfully compared with extensive experimental data. The potential implications of this work for pulmonary obstructive diseases are discussed.