Electrical effects on droplet behaviour

M W Airey*, R. G Harrison, K l Aplin, C Pfrang, B Mcginness

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticle (Academic Journal)peer-review


The effect of charge on water droplets modulates various aspects of their behaviour. These include the droplet stability, evaporation, and lifetime. Microphysical models have been developed such that a reasonably good understanding of these processes has been achieved. However, the specific effects of charge deserve further scrutiny as they are an intrinsic component of the factors controlling droplet characteristics. Describing the effects of these requires an understanding of the electrostatic pressure present in the droplet and its surface tension. One way to test these effects and assess droplet response to charge is to take an experimental approach to make observations directly. In this study, individual droplets are levitated in an acoustic wave to allow isolated measurements to be taken. The droplets are monitored using a CCD camera with a microscope objective lens. In some cases, with sufficient charge present, effects on droplet stability can be observed as Rayleigh explosions, where a sudden drop in mass is seen superimposed on the evaporation profile. These events also allow the charge on the droplet to be calculated, which is then compared with the droplet evaporation. Another factor that plays a part in droplet behaviour is droplet composition. Different substances have different surface tension, and this is explored by performing some experiments on sulphuric acid droplets. Theory predicts that the more highly charged a droplet is, the more resistant to evaporation it becomes. Experimental data collected during this study agrees with this, with more highly charged droplets observed to have slower evaporation rates. However, highly charged drops were also observed to periodically become unstable during evaporation and undergo Rayleigh explosions. Each instability of a highly charged drop removes mass, reducing the overall droplet lifetime regardless of the slower evaporation rate. The sulphuric acid droplets were observed to be much more resistant to evaporation and no Rayleigh instabilities were observed.
Original languageEnglish
Article number012015
Pages (from-to)012015
Number of pages7
JournalJournal of Physics: Conference Series
Issue number1
Early online date12 Feb 2024
Publication statusPublished - 12 Feb 2024

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© Published under licence by IOP Publishing Ltd.


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