Instabilities and patterns in a submerged jelling jet†
When a thin stream of aqueous sodium alginate is extruded into a reacting calcium chloride bath, it polymerizes into a soft elastic tube that spontaneously forms helical coils due to the ambient fluid drag. We quantify the onset of this drag-induced instability and its nonlinear evolution using experiments, and explain the results using a combination of scaling, theory and simulations. By co-extruding a second (internal) liquid within the aqueous sodium alginate jet and varying the diameter of the jet and the rates of the co-extrusion of the two liquids, we show that we can tune the local composition of the composite filament and the nature of the ensuing instabilities to create soft filaments of variable relative buoyancy, shape and mechanical properties. Altogether, by harnessing the fundamental varicose (jetting) and sinuous (buckling) instabilities associated with the extrusion of a submerged jelling filament, we show that it is possible to print complex three-dimensional filamentous structures in an ambient fluid.