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Physicochemical hydrodynamics of droplets out of equilibrium


Droplets abound in nature and technology. In general, they are multicomponent, and, when out of equilibrium, have gradients in concentration, implying flow and mass transport. Moreover, phase transitions can occur, in the form of evaporation, solidification, dissolution or nucleation of a new phase. The droplets and their surrounding liquid can be binary, ternary or contain even more components, with several in different phases. Since the early 2000s, rapid advances in experimental and numerical fluid dynamical techniques have enabled major progress in our understanding of the physicochemical hydrodynamics of such droplets, further narrowing the gap from fluid dynamics to chemical engineering and colloid and interfacial science, arriving at a quantitative understanding of multicomponent and multiphase droplet systems far from equilibrium, and aiming towards a one-to-one comparison between experiments and theory or numerics. This Perspective discusses examples of the physicochemical hydrodynamics of droplet systems far from equilibrium and the relevance of such systems for applications.

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Fig. 1: Immiscible droplets in the bulk, driven by physicochemical hydrodynamical effects.
Fig. 2: Various types of coalescence of two droplets consisting of different liquids.
Fig. 3: Collective dissolution for droplets.
Fig. 4: Multicomponent droplet evaporation.
Fig. 5: Physicochemical hydrodynamical effects evolving phase transitions.
Fig. 6: Principles of solvent exchange.
Fig. 7: Evaporating ouzo droplet.


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We thank our colleagues, postdocs, PhD students and other students for their contributions to our understanding of physicochemical hydrodynamics of droplets and for the intellectual stimulation we have enjoyed when doing physics together. In the context of the subjects covered here, we thank L. Bao, K. Leong Chong, P. Kant, Z. Lu, A. Prosperetti, V. Spandan, M. Versluis, C.-W. Visser, H. Wijshoff, H. Yu and in particular C. Diddens, Yanshen Li, Yaxing Li and H. Tan. We also thank A. Juel, S. Karpitschka, C. Maas, A. Prosperetti, J. Snoeijer and H. Stone for comments on the manuscript. D.L. thanks D. van Gils for drawing many figures and acknowledges support from the Dutch Research Council (NWO) under several projects, from the ERC Advanced Grant “DDD” under the project number 740479, and from the ERC Proof-of-Concept Grant “NanoEX” under the project number 862032. X.H.Z. acknowledges support from the Natural Science and Engineering Council of Canada (NSERC) and from the Canada Research Chairs programme.

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Lohse, D., Zhang, X. Physicochemical hydrodynamics of droplets out of equilibrium. Nat Rev Phys 2, 426–443 (2020).

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