Droplet breakup for fuel and pharmaceutical sprays


As discussed on the page about Multi-phase flows, liquid sprays are ubiquitous in science and industry: from pesticide dispersal to fuel injection, from milk production to the humble asthma puffer. In all these applications, the final size of the liquid droplet is critically important. In this research we focus on the secondary atomization process, where droplets break up into smaller droplets.


Why it matters:

Though we use them all the time, there is so much that is still not understood about the physics of sprays, and the manner in which droplets break up. If we can better understand and control this process, we can expect better fuel efficiency in our engines, better delivery of therapeutic agents in our pharmaceutical devices, and a whole host of other benefits. The operation of variable-phase turbines for renewable power production requires an understanding of droplet breakup, as does the flow of natural gas through valves in piping systems.


Our approach:

In this project we are focusing on an area that has received little attention to date: the role of turbulence in the breakup process. To do this we have commissioned a new droplet facility, and are combining high-speed flow visualization with Particle Image Velocimetry measurements to explore the relationship between turbulence and secondary atomization.

To give an overview of the facility he designed, LTRAC Alumnus Patrick Muston produced the following video:



This project is still in its relative infancy. See some of the initial visualizations of droplet breakup in the Gallery.