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Introduction
Applying an electric field across a suspension of immiscible liquids may stimulate droplets of the same phase to coalesce. The method known as electrocoalescence has important applications, for instance, in the separation of oil from water. The present model is a benchmark example, showing how to set up and simulate electrocoalescence phenomena using COMSOL. The calculated results are compared to experimental work presented in the literature, Ref. 1. In the reported experiments, a water droplet is injected in silicone oil, near the interface of a water phase. At the same time, an electric field is applied which affects the coalescence process as the droplet merges with the water phase. Comparing photographs of the droplet motion as functions of time with the corresponding modeling results, shows that the simulation are in good qualitative agreement with experimental findings. To model electrocoalescence, you need to solve the NavierStokes equations, describing the fluid motion, as well as track the interfaces between the immiscible fluids. In order to include the electric forces, you also have to solve for the electric field. The electric field depends on the position and shape of the water droplets. This complex multiphysics process can readily be set up and solved with COMSOL Multiphysics.
Model Definition
A cylinder of height 20 mm and radius 8 mm is filled with a layer of silicone oil on top of a 3 mm layer of water. A water droplet of 3 mm radius is placed slightly above the water surface. As the droplet is released, an electric field is applied. This example simulates how the fluid interface evolves as the droplet is released, due to gravity, surface tension, and electrostatic forces. As a comparison, a second simulation with no external field, is also performed. To model electrocoalescence, you couple two predefined physics interfaces, namely the Two Phase Flow Phase Field interface and the Electrostatics interface.
T H E TW O P H A S E F L OW P H A S E F I E L D I N T E R F A C E
The Two Phase Flow Phase Field interface sets up the equations for the fluid motion according to the NavierStokes equations:
ELECTROCOALESCENCE

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You only have to specify how they are coupled. as well as the surface tension force.( E ⋅ D )I 2 where E is the electric field and D is the electric displacement field: 2  CHAPTER : . and F is any additional volume force. is automatically calculated from the phase field variable φ . that is. η dynamic viscosity. χ controls the mobility of the interface. which is different for oil and water.ρ ∂u T + ρ ( u ⋅ ∇ )u = ∇ ⋅ [ – pI + η ( ∇u + ( ∇u ) ) ] + F st + ρg + F ∂t ∇⋅u = 0 where u denotes velocity. For the Two Phase Flow interface. p pressure g gravity. you need to specify the electric force. σ is the surface tension coefficient. it uses a phase field method: 3χσε ∂φ + u ⋅ ∇φ = ∇ ⋅ . T H E C O U P L I N G O F T H E TW O P H Y S I C S The software automatically sets up the equations described in the two previous sections. ε is a numerical parameter that determines the thickness of the fluid interface. The density and viscosity. THE ELECTROSTATICS INTERFACE The Electrostatics interface sets up the following equations for the electric potential V: – ∇ ⋅ ( ε 0 ε r ∇V ) = 0 Here. and εr is the relative permittivity. the region where the phase field variable varies smoothly from 1 to 1. The electric force is given by the divergence of the Maxwell stress tensor: F = ∇⋅T The Maxwell stress tensor is given by T 1 T = ED – . ρ density.∇ψ ∂t 2 2 ψ = – ∇ ⋅ ε ∇φ + ( φ – 1 )φ 2 2 (01) (02) The phase field variable φ is 1 in water and 1 in oil. ε0 is the permittivity of vacuum. To track the fluid interface. Fst surface tension force.
ε 0 εr ( E r + E z ) 2 0 2 2 1 – . that is the divergence of the Maxwell stress tensor. you also need to specify the relative permittivity.T zr + zz r ∂r ∂z Note: An other equivalent form for the force is F = – . The relative permittivity is constant. You define it from the internally defined volume fractions of each fluid. In cylindrical coordinates (r. ϕ . respectively.( T rr – T ϕϕ ) + rz r ∂z ∂r F = ∇⋅T = 0 ∂T zr 1 ∂T + . εr1 and εr2 denote the relative permittivity of oil and water.ε 0 ε r ( E r + E z ) 2 0 ε 0 εr E r E z 0 In this case.( E ⋅ E )ε 0 ∇ε r . Vf1 and Vf2: ε r = ε r1 Vf1 + ε r2 Vf2 Here. so you need to specify the force in cylindrical coordinates.ε 0 ε r ( E r + E z ) 2 ε0 εr Er Ez 0 2 2 2 1 ε 0 εr E z – . for each fluid.E = – ∇V D = ε 0 εr E The present model is axisymmetric. is ∂T rr 1 ∂T + . 1 2 Finally. PHYSICAL PROPER TIES OF THE FLUIDS The following table lists the physical properties of the two fluids ELECTROCOALESCENCE  3 . but different. the force. z). the stress tensor is T rr T rϕ T rz T = T ϕr T ϕϕ T ϕz = T zr T zϕ T zz 2 2 2 1 ε 0 ε r E r – .
The results are in good qualitative agreement with the experiments in Ref. This example treats two cases.00935Pa·s 0. Results Figure 01 shows snapshots of the fluid interface with and without an electric field.0010Pa·s 0.TABLE 01: MATERIAL PROPERTIES PROPERTY VALUE ρoil ρwater ηoil ηwater σ εr. for which an electric field is applied. water 935kg/m3 998kg/m 3 Density of oil Density of water Dynamic viscosity of oil Dynamic viscosity of water Surface tension coefficient Relative permittivity of oil Relative permittivity of water 0. except for the boundary at the axisymmetry line (r=0). oil εr.0194N/m 2. and a second case. 1. When an electric field is applied. Electric insulation is assumed at the vertical boundary and axisymmetry conditions hold at the boundary where r=0. One without any external electric field. 4  CHAPTER : . the voltage is specified at the top and bottom boundaries.2 80 BOUNDARY CONDITIONS For the fluid flow part. all boundaries are specified as noslip walls.
ELECTROCOALESCENCE  5 .
Kavehpour. 2009.Aryafar and P.Figure 01: Snapshots of the fluid interface with increments of 30 ms from top to bottom. right: Electric field of 267V/mm. 19. 38. vol. H. “Electrocoalescence. References 1. vol. Computers & Fluids. Left: No electric field. pp. 2007. “The Levelset Method Applied to Droplet Dynamics in the Presence of an Electric Field”. E.Bjorklund. 2. 358369.” Physics of Fluids. 6  CHAPTER : .
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