The Behavior of Large, Low-Surface-Tension Water Drops Falling at Terminal Velocity in Air

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  • 1 Arthur D. Little, Inc., Cambridge, Mass. 02140
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Abstract

A vertical wind tunnel was constructed to study the behavior of large, low-surface-tension drops in free fall. The tunnel is simple, but provides a low turbulence (0.7%) flow which stably supports large water drops falling at terminal velocity. The influence of reduced surface tension on maximum drop size, drop terminal velocity, and drop shape was investigated. It was found that drops of low surface tension break up at a smaller size than drops with normal surface tension, are more deformed than drops of equal mass having normal surface tension, and have a lower terminal velocity than drops of equal mass and normal surface tension. Drops only partially coated with surfactant cannot be stably supported and undergo violent oscillations. Before any field testing of possible cloud modification by reducing rainwater surface tension is warranted, further investigation of the behavior of low-surface-tension drops should be undertaken and, in particular, the behavior of drops only partially coated with surfactant should be studied.

Abstract

A vertical wind tunnel was constructed to study the behavior of large, low-surface-tension drops in free fall. The tunnel is simple, but provides a low turbulence (0.7%) flow which stably supports large water drops falling at terminal velocity. The influence of reduced surface tension on maximum drop size, drop terminal velocity, and drop shape was investigated. It was found that drops of low surface tension break up at a smaller size than drops with normal surface tension, are more deformed than drops of equal mass having normal surface tension, and have a lower terminal velocity than drops of equal mass and normal surface tension. Drops only partially coated with surfactant cannot be stably supported and undergo violent oscillations. Before any field testing of possible cloud modification by reducing rainwater surface tension is warranted, further investigation of the behavior of low-surface-tension drops should be undertaken and, in particular, the behavior of drops only partially coated with surfactant should be studied.

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