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Journal Articles Journal of Fluid Mechanics Year : 2018

Wake of super-hydrophobic falling spheres: influence of the air layer deformation


We report an experimental investigation of the wake of free falling super-hydrophobic spheres. The mutual interaction between the air layer (plastron) encapsulating the super-hydrophobic spheres and the flow is emphasised by studying the hydrodynamic performance. It is found that the air plastron adapts its shape to the flow-induced stresses which compete with the surface tension. This competition is characterised by introducing the Weber number We , whilst the plastron deformation is estimated via the aspect ratio χ . While noticeable distortions are locally observed, the plastron becomes more and more spherical on average (i.e. χ→1 ) as far as We increases. The study of the falling motion reveals that the plastron compliance has a sizeable influence on the wake development. Investigating the lift force experienced by the super-hydrophobic spheres, the onset of wake instabilities is found to be triggered earlier than for smooth spheres used as reference. Surprisingly, it is also observed that the early promotion of the wake instabilities is even more pronounced beyond a critical Weber number, Wec , which corresponds to a critical aspect ratio χc . Furthermore, the magnitude of the hydrodynamic loads is found to be dependent on the average deformation of the gas/liquid interface. Indeed, in comparison to the reference spheres, the high deformation achieved for χ>χc (oblate shape) leads to lift and drag increase, whereas the low deformation obtained for χ<χc (spherical shape) yields lift and drag mitigation. Accordingly, taking into account the plastron deformation provides an attractive way to explain the somehow discordant results reported in other studies at comparable Reynolds numbers. These results suggest that the amount of vorticity produced at the body surface and then released in the wake is strongly impacted by the plastron compliance. If confirmed by additional studies and extrapolated to other flow configurations, our findings would imply that plastron compliance and its feedback on the flow, which are currently neglected in most theoretical works and numerical simulations, must be accounted for to design super-hydrophobic surfaces and/or predict their performance.

Dates and versions

hal-02059672 , version 1 (06-03-2019)



Marco Castagna, Nicolas Mazellier, Azeddine Kourta. Wake of super-hydrophobic falling spheres: influence of the air layer deformation. Journal of Fluid Mechanics, 2018, 850, pp.646-673. ⟨10.1017/jfm.2018.480⟩. ⟨hal-02059672⟩
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