Self-healing Dynamics of Surfactant Coatings on Thin Viscous Films

Student Co-author

HMC Undergraduate

Document Type

Article - preprint


Mathematics (HMC)

Publication Date



We investigate the dynamics of an insoluble surfactant on the surface of a thin viscous fluid spreading inward to fill a surfactant-free region. During the initial stages of surfactant self-healing, Marangoni forces drive an axisymmetric ridge inward to coalesce into a growing central distension; this is unlike outward-spreading, in which the ridge decays. In later dynamics, the distension slowly decays and the surfactant concentration equilibrates. We present results from experiments in which we simultaneously measure the surfactant concentration (using fluorescently-tagged lipids) and the fluid height profile (via laser profilometry). We compare the results to simulations of a mathematical model using parameters from the experiments. For surfactant concentrations close to but below the critical monolayer concentration, we observe agreement between the height profiles in the numerical simulations and the experiment, but disagreement in the surfactant distribution. In experiments at lower concentrations, the surfactant spreading and formation of a Marangoni ridge are no longer present, and a persistent lipid-free region remains. This observation, which is not captured by the simulations, has undesirable implications for applications where uniform coverage is advantageous. Finally, we probe the generality of the effect, and find that distensions of similar size are produced independent of initial fluid thickness, size of initial clean region, and surfactant type.

Rights Information

© 2013 Stephen L. Strickland, Matthew Hin, M. Richard Sayanagi, Cameron Conti, Karen E. Daniels, Rachel Levy