Coalescence of drops in a 2D microchannel: critical transitions to autocatalytic behaviour
A single coalescence event in a 2D concentrated emulsion in a microchannel can trigger an avalanche of similar events that can destabilize the entire assembly of drops. The sensitive dependence of the process on numerous parameters makes the propagation dynamics appear probabilistic. In this article, a stochastic simulation framework is proposed to understand this collective behavior in a system employing a large number of drops. We discover that the coalescence propagation dynamics exhibit a critical behavior where two outcomes are favored: no avalanche and large avalanches. Our analysis reveals that this behavior is a result of the inherent autocatalytic nature of the process. The effect of the aspect ratio of the drop assembly on the propagation dynamics is studied. We generate a parametric plot that shows the region of the parameter space where the propagation, averaged over the ensemble, is autocatalytic: where the possibility of near destabilization of the drop assembly appears.