The Effect of Shape on the Motion and Stability of Marangoni Surfers

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Department of Mechanical Engineering-Engineering Mechanics


The Marangoni propulsion of spheres and elliptical disks floating on the air-water interface were studied to understand the effect of particle shape on its motion and its stability at moderate Reynolds numbers. Self-propulsion of the Marangoni surfer was achieved by coating half of the spheres and the elliptical disks with either a solution of soap or isopropyl alcohol (IPA). The presence of the soap or IPA resulted in a surface tension gradient across the particles which propelled the particles in the direction of increasing surface tension. Beyond a critical velocity, a transition was observed from a straight-line motion to a rotational motion. These vortices were observed to shed above a critical Reynolds number resulting in an unbalanced torque that caused the particles to rotate. Increasing the aspect ratio between the major and minor axes of the elliptical disks was found to decrease their stability and greatly enhance their rate of rotation. This was especially true for elliptical disks traveling in a direction parallel to their major axis. The interactions between the particles and the wall of a Petri dish were also studied. Repulsive, concave curvature was found to decrease stability and enhance rotational motion, while attractive, convex curvature was shown to stabilize the straight-line motion of the spheres. For the neutrally buoyant elliptical disks, the presence of the bounding wall was found to greatly stabilize the straight-line motion of the elliptical disks when they were traveling in a direction parallel to their minor axis.

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© 2021 by ASME. Publisher’s version of record: https://doi.org/10.1115/1.4048139

Publication Title

Journal of Fluids Engineering, Transactions of the ASME