Tunable hydrodynamics: a field-frequency phase diagram of a non-equilibrium order-to-disorder transition†
We present experiments on a model system consisting of dielectric (silicone oil) drops in a “leaky dielectric” (castor oil) carrier fluid that exhibits dynamic non-equilibrium phases as a function of the amplitude and frequency of an external AC electric field. At high frequencies, the dielectric drops are pinned to a periodic lattice by dielectrophoretic forces induced by a patterned bottom electrode. Beginning with this state of imposed order, we examine the processes that take this system from order to disorder, with decreasing frequency corresponding to an increase in the range of the hydrodynamic forces. We find two kinds of disorder, shape- and translational disorder, that occur in frequency–amplitude space. We also find regimes where drop breakup is dominant, and where order/disorder of large drops can be probed without significant drop breakup. With decreasing frequency (i.e., increasing hydrodynamic coupling between drops) and on timescales from seconds to minutes, the drops exhibit motion that resembles Brownian motion of particles in a crystal, with an effective temperature that increases with the strength of the electrohydrodynamic driving force. In this limit, the system behaves like a thermal system and the lattice is seen to melt at an effective Lindemann parameter of Leff ∼ 0.08. This non-equilibrium thermodynamics, probed on timescales from seconds to minutes, likely arises from the pseudo-random velocity fields in the carrier fluid, as evidenced by the fractional, t3/2, super-diffusive tracer dynamics at shorter timescales.