Mimicking coalescence using a pressure-controlled dynamic thin film balance†
The dynamics of thin films containing polymer solutions are studied with a pressure-controlled thin film balance. The setup allows the control of both the magnitude and the sign as well as the duration of the pressure drop across the film. The process of coalescence can be thus studied by mimicking the evolution of pressure during the approach and separation of two bubbles. The drainage dynamics, shape evolution and stability of the films were found to depend non-trivially on the magnitude and the duration of the applied pressure. Film dynamics during the application of the negative pressure step are controlled by an interplay between capillarity and hydrodynamics. A negative hydrodynamic pressure gradient promoted the thickening of the film, while the time-dependent deformation of the Plateau border surrounding it caused its local thinning. Distinct regimes in film break-up were thus observed depending on which of these two effects prevailed. Our study provides new insight into the behaviour of films during bubble separation, allows the determination of the optimum conditions for the occurrence of coalescence, and facilitates the improvement of population balance models.