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Electrohydrodynamic tip streaming and emission of charged drops from liquid cones


When a liquid is subject to a sufficiently strong electric field, it can be induced to emit thin fluid jets from conical tip structures that form at its surface. Such behaviour has both fundamental and practical implications, from raindrops in thunderclouds to pendant drops in electrospray mass spectrometry. But the large difference in length scales between these microscopic/nanoscopic jets and the macroscopic drops and films from which they emerge has made it difficult to model the electrohydrodynamic (EHD) processes that govern such phenomena. Here, we report simulations and experiments that enable a comprehensive picture of the mechanisms of cone formation, jet emission and break-up that occur during EHD tip streaming from a liquid film of finite conductivity. Simulations show that EHD tip streaming does not occur if the liquid is perfectly conducting or perfectly insulating, and enable us to develop a scaling law to predict the size of the drops produced from jet break-up.

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Figure 1: EHD tip streaming from a planar film.
Figure 2: Curvatures and shapes of liquid films.
Figure 3: Flow and electric fields and stresses near the conic cusping singularity for a conducting film and at the inception of tip streaming for a leaky-dielectric film.
Figure 4: Scaling of drop size in EHD tip streaming.


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This work was supported by the Shreve Trust Fund at Purdue University and the BES Program of US DOE.

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R.T.C.: theoretical and numerical work, article writing; J.J.J.: experimental work; M.T.H.: project planning; O.A.B.: theoretical work, project planning, article writing.

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Correspondence to Osman A. Basaran.

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Collins, R., Jones, J., Harris, M. et al. Electrohydrodynamic tip streaming and emission of charged drops from liquid cones. Nature Phys 4, 149–154 (2008).

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