Student Co-author

HMC Undergraduate

Document Type

Article - preprint


Mathematics (HMC)

Publication Date



For more than two decades, a single model for the spreading of a surfactant-driven thin liquid film has dominated the applied mathematics literature on the subject. Recently, through the use of fluorescently-tagged lipids, it has become possible to make direct, quantitative comparisons between experiments and models. These comparisons have revealed two important discrepancies between simulations and experiments: the spatial distribution of the surfactant layer, and the timescale over which spreading occurs. In this paper, we present numerical simulations that demonstrate the impact of the particular choice of the equation of state (EoS) relating the surfactant concentration to the surface tension. Previous choices of the model EoS have been an ad-hoc decreasing function. Here, we instead propose an empirically-motivated equation of state; this provides a route to resolving some discrepancies and raises new issues to be pursued in future experiments. In addition, we test the influence of the choice of initial conditions and values for the non-dimensional groups. We demonstrate that the choice of EoS improves the agreement in surfactant distribution morphology between simulations and experiments, and impacts the dynamics of the simulations. The relevant feature of the EoS, the gradient, has distinct regions for empirically motivated choices, which suggests that future work will need to consider more than one timescale. We observe that the non-dimensional number controlling the relative importance of gravitational vs. capillary forces has a larger impact on the dynamics than the other non-dimensional groups. Finally, we observe that the experimental approach of using a ring to contain the surfactant could a affect the surfactant and fluid dynamics if it disrupts the intended initial surfactant distribution. However, the meniscus itself does not significantly affect the dynamics.

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