Predictive Analysis of Complex Interfacial Flows (PACIF)

Lead Research Organisation: Imperial College London
Department Name: Department of Chemical Engineering


Interfacial flows are encountered in a wide variety of natural phenomena and technological applications: from underwater, river and lava flows to biological settings such as tear films in the eye to conventional engineering applications such as condensers, heat exchangers and distillation units and more recent developments in the area of microreactors/MEMS and nanotechnology. The length scales involved range from the nanometer level as for dewetting of thin films, to the centimetre scale for heat and mass transfer applications, to the meter scale for geological flows. These processes and devices often depend critically on the behaviour of liquid films, especially in the presence of moving contact lines. The proposed research is a synergistic approach combining state-of-the-art theory, modelling, simulations and experimentation and involves a highly multi-disciplinary effort with a team that includes chemical/mechanical engineers, chemists, physicists and applied mathematicians. The proposed research calling upon the complementary expertise of this team aims to examine a number of open problems and research directions in the area of complex interfacial flows. For instance, a crucial problem in current predictive models for flows with moving contact lines is that artificial measures are required to alleviate the contact-line singularity. As a consequence, the necessary local mesh refinement to fully resolve the flow near contact lines render current models either unrealistic or excessively inefficient. The proposed research is therefore of paramount scientific and practical significance. It is a high-risk effort to provide the foundations and methodologies necessary for a detailed understanding of complex interfacial flows with moving contact lines and the development of tools for the accurate and efficient prediction of their dynamics that can be used in future research. The ultimate aim is the use of these tools for optimisation of processes and devices that exploit such flows.


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Adams S (2008) Bloch waves in periodic multi-layered acoustic waveguides in Proceedings of the Royal Society A: Mathematical, Physical and Engineering Sciences

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Beacham DR (2009) Surfactant-enhanced rapid spreading of drops on solid surfaces. in Langmuir : the ACS journal of surfaces and colloids

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CONROY D (2010) Dynamics and stability of an annular electrolyte film in Journal of Fluid Mechanics

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Craster R (2009) Dynamics and stability of thin liquid films in Reviews of Modern Physics

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CRASTER R (2009) Breakup of surfactant-laden jets above the critical micelle concentration in Journal of Fluid Mechanics

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Craster RV (2009) Pinning, retraction, and terracing of evaporating droplets containing nanoparticles. in Langmuir : the ACS journal of surfaces and colloids

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Karapetsas G (2012) Convective rolls and hydrothermal waves in evaporating sessile drops. in Langmuir : the ACS journal of surfaces and colloids

Description This project has resulted in the decisive first step toward a rigorous methodology for the treatment of contact lines, a long-standing problem for fluid mechanics; the first detailed and systematic study of the effects of random, small-scale spatial heterogeneities on spreading dynamics. A significant outcome here is that the classical law of Wenzel is in fact incorrect; the first reliable numerical simulations of flows with highly-resolved contact line motion; resolution of the mechanism underlying the 25-year old problem of surfactant-driven ``super-spreading". The Platform Grant has provided stability, flexibility and enhanced career

development for our PDRAs. A total of 12 PDRAs have been supported for various periods. The majority of these have moved on to successful careers in academia or industry.
Exploitation Route Controlling surface wettability on patterned surfaces is crucial in a broad range of applications, including DNA micro-arrays and lab-on-a-chip. Our aim is to examine experimentally (macro-) droplet spreading on

structured/random substrates, to provide insight into wetting and spreading for advanced and functional coatings.
Sectors Chemicals,Education,Energy

Description The findings of this project have been used to advance the knowledge of the physics of moving contact lines. The results were not exploited commercially; instead they provided the necessary fundamentals to underpin further studies that were published in leading journals (J. Fluid Mech, Phys. Fluids) in fluid mechanics. This work also led to significant follow-up funding (ERC Advanced Grant for Serafim Kalliadasis, EPSRC Programme Grant (£5M) for Omar Matar, another Platform Grant funded by EPSRC for Craster, Kalliadasis, Matar).
First Year Of Impact 2008
Sector Agriculture, Food and Drink,Chemicals,Education,Energy,Manufacturing, including Industrial Biotechology
Description Responsive mode (FPP3D)
Amount £301,085 (GBP)
Funding ID EP/L022176/1 
Organisation Engineering and Physical Sciences Research Council (EPSRC) 
Sector Public
Country United Kingdom
Start 03/2014 
End 10/2015
Description Responsive mode (MACIPH)
Amount £1,616,110 (GBP)
Funding ID EP/L020564/1 
Organisation Engineering and Physical Sciences Research Council (EPSRC) 
Sector Public
Country United Kingdom
Start 05/2014 
End 06/2019
Description Strategic partnership with Procter and Gamble 
Organisation Procter & Gamble
Country United States 
Sector Private 
PI Contribution Engaged with P&G researchers to provide solutions to problems in the area of multiphase flows.
Collaborator Contribution Engaged with the research group to provide a constant source of good problems to work on, secondment opportunities for our researchers, and cash contribution.
Impact Procter and Gamble have provided £100000 cash contribution which was instrumental in our winning an EPSRC Programme Grant.
Start Year 2012
Description Interfacial flows in the presence of additives 
Form Of Engagement Activity A talk or presentation
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach International
Primary Audience Other academic audiences (collaborators, peers etc.)
Results and Impact An invited seminar at Physique et Mecanique des Milieux Heterogenes, Ecole Superieure de Physique et de Chimie Industrielles (ESPCI), Paris, 20 March 2009.

Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2009
Description Thin film dynamics 
Form Of Engagement Activity A talk or presentation
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach National
Primary Audience Participants in your research and patient groups
Results and Impact Invited seminar given at the Department of Mathematics at Bristol in 2008 on the dynamics of thin films in the presence of moving contact lines and surfactants. The seminar was attended by academic staff, and research students. After the seminar, there was an intense discussion of our results which were on a novel surfactant-induced instability.

Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2008