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J Vis

DOI 10.1007/s12650-015-0315-9


Pallavi Bhambri Debjyoti Sen Yuvraj Singh Negi

Brian Fleck

Effect of drag reducing agent on bubble formation

in horizontal liquid cross-flow

Received: 20 April 2015 / Revised: 23 June 2015 / Accepted: 24 September 2015

The Visualization Society of Japan 2015

Abstract In the present study, experiments were conducted in a rectangular mixing conduit of an effer-
vescent atomizer to quantify the effect of addition of drag reducing agent on bubble formation from an
orifice in horizontal cross-flow. Modified bubble formation behavior in horizontal liquid cross-flow after
addition of drag reducing agent was investigated. Shadowgraph images of bubbles evolving at an orifice
were taken using a high-speed camera; bubble size and velocity were measured. High molecular weight
cationic polyacrylamide was used as a drag reducing agent. Increase in the size of bubble with increase in
concentration was observed. Particle image velocimetry in the upstream flow with drag reducing agent
provided velocity profile and turbulence characteristics showing of the role of mean flow on increasing the
bubble size.

Keywords Drag reducing agent  Non-Newtonian fluid  Particle image velocimetry  Bubble formation
DRA Drag reducing agent
LDV Laser doppler velocimetry
PIV Particle image velocimetry
rms Root mean square
wppm Weight parts per million
LPS Litres per second
SLPM Standard liter per minute
y Distance across the channel (mm)
x Distance along the channel (mm)
Ql Liquid flow rate (L/s)
U Bulk velocity (m/s) U Ql =Cross-sectional Area of Conduit  1000
vx Streamwise velocity (m/s)
vy Spanwise velocity (m/s)
v0x Streamwise velocity fluctuations (m/s) " r #
v0y Spanwise velocity fluctuations (m/s)    2
|v0 | Magnitude of velocity fluctuations (m/s) jv0 j v0x v0y
d Channel hydraulic diameter (mm)
db Bubble diameter (mm)
do Orifice diameter (mm)
ql Liquid density (kg/m3)

P. Bhambri (&)  D. Sen  B. Fleck

Department of Mechanical Engineering Building, University of Alberta, Edmonton, AB T6G 2G8, Canada
Tel.: (?1) (780) 707 6691

P. Bhambri  Y. S. Negi
Department of Polymer and Process Engineering, Indian Institute of Technology, Roorkee, India
P. Bhambri et al.

r Surface tension (N/m)

CD Drag coefficient

1 Introduction

An effervescent atomization is a technique which involves mixing of gas and liquid in a conduit and is used
in various industrial applications such as combustion and coating (Sovani 2001). The internal two-phase
flow pattern is known to influence the external spray properties (Huang et al. 2008; Ghaemi 2009) and
depends on various parameters such as the gas flow rate, the liquid flow rate and pressure in the mixing
conduit. Bubble size distribution and flow regimes immediately upstream of the nozzle influence the
performance of the atomizer (Konstantinov et al. 2010). The conditions immediately upstream of the nozzle
depend on bubble formation, coalescence and bubble transport inside the mixing channel (Gomez 2010).
Hence, it is of significant importance to study the influence of different conditions on bubble formation.
A large amount of research has been done on bubble formation in liquid cross-flow (Marshall 1990;
Sovani 2001; Liu et al. 2010; Sen et al. 2014). Marshall (1990) modeled the single bubble formation in a
liquid cross-flow and reported that drag force resulting from flowing liquid leads to early detachment and
hence smaller bubble formation. Tsuge and Hibino (1983) examined the effects of gas chamber volume,
orifice diameter, physical properties of gas and liquid flow rate on the bubble volume. Kumar and Kuloor
(1970) proposed a two-stage model for bubble formation: (1) the expansion stage in which the bubble
expands while it is still attached to the orifice tip; (2) the detachment stage in which the bubble base pulls
away from the tip but is still in contact with the orifice with a neck (jet formation).
Liquids after addition of polymer additives or drag reducing agents become non-Newtonian in nature
(Acharya et al. 1978). Bubble formation in a non-Newtonian fluid is also of great academic interest because
of its application in various industrial processes such as petroleum processing, ventilation of industrial liquid
waste and so on (Jiang et al. 2007). The non-Newtonian behavior of the liquid influences the bubble
formation by varying drag coefficient around the bubble. Davidson and Schuler (1960) examined the bubble
formation in a static non-Newtonian liquid; increase of bubble diameter was observed. Acharya et al. (1978)
investigated the volume of bubbles in water at various concentrations of polyacrylamide (0.05 and 0.1 %)
and correlated a simplified equation to predict the bubble size. Costes and Alran (1978) further developed a
model for bubble size in stagnant non-Newtonian fluid by balancing the forces such as drag force, surface
tension, buoyancy force, momentum force, inertia force and so on at constant pressure and constant flow
Various studies have reported two-stage model during bubble formation (Kumar and Kuloor 1970; Tsuge
and Hibino 1983). The first one is expansion stage in which the bubble expands while it is still attached to
the orifice tip. The second is detachment stage where the bubble base goes away from the tip but is in
contact with orifice with a neck formation. The mechanism of bubble formation in non-Newtonian fluid is
similar to Newtonian until first stage (expansion), but during the second stage, liquid rheology (vis-
coelasticity) determines the neck motion. With increase in concentration of polymer in non-Newtonian fluid,
the viscoelastic stresses become large and increases the bubble growth time and thereby enhancing the
bubble size (Kulkarni and Joshi 2005).
Drag reduction in turbulent pipe flow, using high molecular weight polymer as additives, also known as
drag reducing agents (DRA) is well recognized. Various studies on measurement of the effect of DRA on
turbulent flow in channels and pipes have been reported by researchers (Toms 1949; White et al. 2004).
Luchik and Tiederman (1988) used Laser Doppler Velocimetry (LDV) and noticed a suppression of the
velocity fluctuations normal to the wall in the buffer region, an increment in the streak spacing and increased
time interval between bursts. Warholic et al. (2001) studied the effect of drag reducing polymers on
turbulent structures with the help of particle image velocimetry (PIV) at 41 and 55 % drag reduction
(Reynolds number 20,000). Significant decrease in rms velocity fluctuation normal to the wall, and skewness
of Reynolds stresses with increase in polymer concentration was observed. White et al. (2004) investigated
the turbulent structure of drag reducing boundary layer flows using PIV in a zero pressure gradient boundary
layer. Drag reduction (wall shear stress) was measured with the help of thermal and optical wall shear stress
sensors. The results suggest that the polymers do not simply suppress the turbulence but the streamwise
turbulence intensity is also enhanced in most of the studies while the turbulence intensity normal to the wall
(spanwise) is diminished.
Effect of drag reducing agent on bubble formation

Although significant research has been conducted on bubble formation in stationary non-Newtonian
fluids, bubble formation in liquid cross-flow with DRA demands further investigation. In the present work,
bubble formation was studied in a liquid cross-flow in a horizontal mixing conduit of an effervescent
atomizer. There were two main objectives of this study which were accomplished in two stages: two-phase
flow study, where effect of addition of DRA on bubble formation in liquid cross-flow was investigated using
high-speed imaging and; upstream single-phase flow study in which the effect of DRA on the turbulence
structures was studied using PIV. Modification in bubble formation pattern as well as increase in the bubble
size was examined with increasing DRA concentration. The mean velocity flow profile and velocity fluc-
tuations across the channel were obtained using PIV which verified the role of DRA in the modification of
flow before gas injector.

2 Experimental

The flow channel used for the present study is a model of a mixing conduit of an effervescent atomizer used
in a previous study (Sen et al. 2014). A schematic representation of the channel is shown in Fig. 1. The
channel has a square cross-section with hydraulic diameter (d) of 12.7 mm and length 1.12 m and has two
transparent side walls for visualization and illumination. The channel consists of several ports located on the
top and bottom surface of the channel which are used for air injection and pressure measurement. Gas was
injected into the channel using a single port (d0 = 1.33 mm) which was located at 0.5 m from the liquid
inlet. A centrifugal pump (Model A-97568304, Grundfos) was used to supply liquid to the channel from a
water reservoir. The liquid discharge line from the pump splits into the bypass line and an inlet to the
channel as shown in Fig. 1. The mass flow rate of water/DRA solution entering the channel is controlled by
adjusting the gate valve placed in the bypass line. A variable area flow meter (FLR8340 D, Omega
Engineering Inc.) was used to measure the mass flow rate of solution entering the channel. Since the
polymer chain can break (which decreases DRA effect) after every pass through a centrifugal pump, the
liquid coming from the bypass line was drained and not recycled. Four pressure transducers (PX613, Omega
Engineering Inc.) were used to measure static pressure at different locations along the length of the channel.
Cationic Polyacrylamide (Magnafloc 5250, BASF) was used to prepare the polymer solution. Concentrated

Fig. 1 Schematic of the experimental setup a flow loop b projector lights and high-speed camera for two-phase flow study
c double pulse laser and camera for single-phase flow study
P. Bhambri et al.

solution (1 %) was prepared by mixing it on magnetic stirrer for 2 h and the final concentration was
achieved by diluting it with water in the reservoir. The final concentrations utilized for this experiment were
40, 60, 80 and 100 wppm. Shear dependent viscosity at these concentrations was measured using rheometer
(Physica MCR 301). Polymer solutions demonstrated non-Newtonian behavior and sharp decline in vis-
cosity at shear rate of 10 s-1 indicating breakage of chain entanglements. After this sharp decline, constant
viscosity was observed which is also known as infinite shear viscosity in Carreau Model (Kennedy 1995).
For the two-phase flow experiments, an air compressor (GX4FF, Atlas Copco) was used for a steady
supply of air at constant pressure up to 690 kPa. A gas mass flow controller (MC-20SLPM, Alicat Scientific)
was used to regulate the mass flow rate of air entering the channel. The flow conditions for this study were
0.24 L/s liquid flow rate (Re *19,000 with respect to pure water, U = 1.488 m/s) and 0.5 SLPM gas flow
rate (Gas injection velocity-9.45 m/s). A high-speed camera (Lightning RDT Motion Pro, Redlake Inc) was
used to obtain images of bubbles at 2000 frames per second. A 35-mm lens (AF-S 35 mm, Nikon) was
mounted in front of the camera to allow the desired field of view. Continuous backlit illumination was
provided using two projector lamps (Ektagraphic III, Kodak) and a diffuser. Shadowgraph images of bubble
evolution in the liquid cross-flow were recorded using this technique. The camera and the light sources were
mounted on a three axis traverse for precise positioning of the camera. A calibration target consisting of an
array of printed dots with known diameter and spacing was used to convert from pixels to real space; the
calibration factor for the two-phase flow experiments was found to be 0.0644 mm/pixel.
PIV techniques were used to study the single-phase flow properties of DRA solutions at different
concentrations in the channel. For PIV measurement, a Sensicam 12 bit CCD (1376 9 1040 resolution)
camera was used for capturing double frame images, a New Wave Research Solo PIV Nd:YAG double
pulsed Laser (532 nm at 15 mJ/pulse energy) was used for illumination and 11 micron hollow glass spheres
(110P8, Potters Industries) were used as seeding particles. The laser and the camera system were operated in
shadowgraph mode since a laser sheet arrangement was not possible for the present channel geometry. A
beam expander and diffuser were used in front of the laser to create uniform illumination. The width of the
laser pulse was 5 ns which helped to freeze the motion of the tracing particles. The time interval between
two pulses was set at 40 ls and a pair of images was taken at 5 Hz. Commercial software (DaVis 7.2,
LaVision) was used for image acquisition and processing. 100 double frame images were acquired for each
concentration at the same location in the channel as shown in Fig. 1a.

2.1 Image processing

A sample raw image of gas injection in the liquid cross-flow is shown in Fig. 2a. A commercial image
processing toolbox (Matlab 2013b, Mathworks Inc) was used for image processing. The raw images obtained
from the camera were inverted to make the bubbles brighter than the background. A non-linear filter was used to
subtract the background noise from the image and the effect is shown in Fig. 2b. The image is converted into a

Fig. 2 Image processing and bubble detection for two-phase flow. a Raw image of bubbles injected in liquid cross-flow.
b Background noise removal and image preprocessing. c Bubble detection at injection location
Effect of drag reducing agent on bubble formation

binary image based on a dynamic threshold value calculated for each image. All the pixels inside the boundary
of a bubble were assigned a value of 1 and all other pixels in the image were assigned a value of zero. The bubble
coming out of the orifice i.e. the first object from the right most boundaries was identified as shown in Fig. 2c.
An equivalent diameter was calculated based on the area inside the boundary of the bubble.
The raw images of the tracing particles are shown in Fig. 3a. The present optical setup resulted in a field of
view of 10 mm 9 8 mm. Since the laser system was setup in shadowgraph mode the particles appear to be
darker than the background. Commercial image processing software (Davis 7.2, LaVision) was used for data
capture and image processing. Preprocessing of the images was performed before applying the PIV algorithms.
The preprocessing steps involved inverting the image, applying a non-linear sliding minimum subtraction
filter, subtracting a constant intensity value to reduce further noise and finally applying a 3 9 3 linear Gaussian
filter. The effect of image preprocessing is shown in Fig. 3b, c. A cross-correlation algorithm was applied
between each pair of images obtained from the double frame camera. The first pass was made with an
interrogation window of 64 9 64 pixels with 0 % overlap and for the second pass interrogation window of
32 9 32 pixels with a 50 % overlap between neighboring windows was chosen. The resultant vector field of the
flow profile is shown in Fig. 3d. The resultant velocity vector field spacing was 126 lm 9 126 lm.

3 Results and discussion

3.1 Two-phase flow study

Using the image processing technique described in Sect. 2, 1000 images were processed for each data set.
The diameter of the bubbles just after ejection from the orifice was studied and results are shown in Fig. 4.

Fig. 3 Image processing steps for single-phase flow (Ql = 2.4 L/s, DRA concentration = 0). a Raw image. b Image inversion
and morphological subtraction. c Linear Gaussian filter. d Vector field
P. Bhambri et al.

Fig. 4 Comparison of bubble diameter at Gas flow rate 0.5 SLPM and water 0.24 LPS

It clearly demonstrates that there is an increase in bubble diameter with the increase in polymer concen-
tration. Drag force is one of the major detaching forces acting on the bubble in the horizontal direction;
hence with addition of drag reducing agent, there is an increase in bubble detachment time which leads to
increase in bubble size. Since drag reduction increases with increasing concentration, there is an increase in
bubble size with concentration. It should be noted that the surface tension of polymer solution is similar to
that of water (Ishiguro and Hartnett 1992) and hence the only major force changing is the drag force. Jiang
et al. (2007) also made the similar observations for bubble formation at orifice in stationary fluid with
increase in polymer concentration.
Forrester and Rielly (1998) modeled the bubble diameter in a cross-flow and noted that
8do r 0:5
db 1
CD U 2 ql
Since db is inversely proportional to (CD)0.5, a decrease in drag reduction results in increased bubble
Apart from increasing size, there were some other changes observed in bubble formation with addition of
DRA. Figures 5 and 6 show some time series images of bubble formation in water and 100 wppm DRA
solution concentrations, respectively. A single bubble is formed at the orifice but due to instability it breaks
into multiple bubbles soon after detachment from the orifice. Instead of pulse bubbling, single bubble
formation prevails when the flow has DRA added, i.e. the bubbles tend not to breakup into multiple bubbles
after detachment from the orifice. Turbulence could be the reason for bubble instability in case of bubble
formation in water. Since DRA helps in reducing the turbulence (White et al. 2004), these instabilities are
not seen in the case of bubble formation in DRA solution. These observations also verify the increase in
bubble size with addition of polymer, which is the necessary effect of bubble break up.

3.2 Single-phase flow study

A single-phase study was conducted in the channel at the same location and same flow conditions to
characterize the flow upstream of the bubble injection. The aim of this study is to understand single-phase
flow behavior at different DRA concentrations. Figure 7 compares the mean streamwise velocity (nor-
malized with Bulk velocity (U)) across the channel at various concentrations. It could be observed that there
is a decrease in the velocity gradient close to the wall with increase in DRA concentration which is usually
be attributed to the increase in elongational viscosity near the wall. Lumley (1973) proposed a time criterion
theory to explain the mechanism of drag reduction and mentioned that for drag reduction to take place,
relaxation time needs to be longer than the time scale of turbulent eddy. When this condition is met, polymer
chains are stretched leading to dramatic increase in elongational viscosity. The enhanced elongational
viscosity dampens the turbulent fluctuations which in turn decreases the wall friction. Moreover, the
maximum streamwise velocity increases with an increase in DRA concentration, as shown in Fig. 7.
Effect of drag reducing agent on bubble formation

Fig. 5 Sequential shadowgraph images of bubble formation in water at interval of approx 500 ls

Fig. 6 Sequential shadowgraph images of bubble formation in 100 wppm concentration of DRA at interval of approx 500 ls

Decrease in velocity gradient near the wall explains the decrease in wall shear stress and justifies the
decrease in drag with increase of DRA concentration.
The root-mean-square velocity profile for the streamwise velocity fluctuation v0x and spanwise velocity
fluctuation v0y components is shown in Figs. 8 and 9, respectively. With the increase in drag reduction, the
peak in the streamwise velocity fluctuation profile slightly moves away from the wall (Fig. 8). This shift is
attributed to an increase in elongational viscosity with addition of DRA; which in turn increases the viscous
P. Bhambri et al.

Fig. 7 Mean streamwise velocity profile across the channel at various DRA concentrations

Fig. 8 Root-mean-square velocity of v0x across the channel at various DRA concentrations

sub-layer length. Similar observations were made by White et al. (2004) and Warholic et al. (2001). On the
other hand, there should be a significant decrease in the spanwise fluctuations with increase in DRA
concentrations. White et al. (2004) mentioned that DRA weakens the mechanism responsible for re-dis-
tribution of turbulent energy from the streamwise component to the spanwise component. This leads to an
increase in the streamwise velocity fluctuations v0x and a decrease in the spanwise velocity fluctuations
v0y . Decrease in the spanwise velocity fluctuations indicates that DRA causes the flow to be more aligned
toward the flow.
Figure 10 shows the instantaneous velocity fluctuations vector profile for water and 100 wppm of DRA
concentration. x is the distance along the channel, y is distance across the channel and |v0 | indicates the
magnitude of velocity fluctuations ( v0x 2 v0y 2 ). For calculating this, the ensemble average of all the
velocity elements was subtracted from each velocity vector. Thus, small-scale eddies are attenuated by a
significant extent because of the DRA. Moreover, the central region is less active and the fluctuations tend to
be in the streamwise direction. It is clearly evident that velocity fluctuations are suppressed after the addition
of the DRA.
Effect of drag reducing agent on bubble formation

Fig. 9 Root-mean-square velocity of v0y across the channel at various DRA concentrations

Fig. 10 Instantaneous velocity fluctuations for a Water b 100 wppm concentration

P. Bhambri et al.

The abovementioned results indicate that drag reducing agents significantly change the turbulent
structures. These long chain polymers suppress the spanwise velocity fluctuations, eliminate the small-scale
eddies and decrease the velocity gradient close to the wall which in turn modifies the mean velocity profile
and reduces the drag. As indicated in Eq. 1, bubble diameter (db) is inversely proportional to (CD)0.5, which
verifies that drag reduction is the reason for the increase in bubble diameter observed from the two-phase
flow study. Moreover, reduction in velocity fluctuations and small-scale eddies results in suppression of
turbulence which in turn justifies the regularity in bubble formation after DRA addition.

4 Conclusion

An experimental study was accomplished to investigate the effect of long chain (or high molecular weight)
polymers known as drag reducing agent (DRA) on bubble formation at injection in horizontal liquid cross-
flow. Shadowgraph techniques were utilized to investigate the bubble sizes at different DRA concentrations.
An increase in the bubble size with increase in DRA concentration was observed. In the horizontal liquid
cross-flow, drag force is one of the major forces acting on the bubble. This force leads to early detachment
of bubbles from the orifice and hence after DRA addition the decrease in drag force delays the detachment
of bubble thereby increasing the bubble size. Moreover, suppression of turbulence after DRA addition
makes the bubble formation more regular and bubble formation regime modifies from pulse regime to single
bubble regime. PIV experiments were conducted to verify the occurrence of drag reduction with the addition
of the polymer additives which also confirmed the decrease in velocity gradient close to the wall with an
increase in polymer concentration. Moreover, there was a sharp decline in the spanwise velocity fluctuations
and a shift in streamwise velocity fluctuations was observed. Addition of DRA results in significant
reduction of small-scale eddies and vortices which leads to suppression of turbulence in the flow.
In the future, this study will be extended to different flow regimes with higher gas to liquid ratios and the
effect of DRA at such flow regimes will be investigated. The future work will also involve quantitative
characterization of smoothness of the bubble boundaries with change of DRA concentration; fractal
dimension method involving box count technique can be used for such characterization.


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