Spheroidal approximation for finite-amplitude highly viscous axisymmetric drop/bubble free shape relaxation
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A common simplification used in different physical contexts by both experimentalists and theoreticians when dealing with essentially non-spherical drops is treating them as ellipsoids or, in the axisymmetric case, spheroids. In the present theoretical study, we are concerned with such a spheroidal approximation for free viscous shape relaxation of strongly deformed axisymmetric drops towards a sphere. A general case of a drop in an immiscible fluid medium is considered, which includes the particular cases of high and low inside-to-outside viscosity ratios (e.g., liquid drops in air and bubbles in liquid, respectively). The analysis involves solving for the accompanying Stokes (creeping) flow inside and outside a spheroid of an evolving aspect ratio. Here this is accomplished by an analytical solution in the form of infinite series whose coefficients are evaluated numerically. The study aims at the aspect ratios up to about 3 at most in both the oblate and prolate domains. The inconsistency of the spheroidal approximation and the associated non-spheroidal tendencies are quantified from within the approach. The spheroidal approach turns out to work remarkably well for the relaxation of drops of relatively very low viscosity (e.g., bubbles). It is somewhat less accurate for drops in air. A semi-heuristic result encountered in the literature, according to which the difference of the squares of the two axes keeps following the near-spherical linear evolution law even for appreciable deformations, is put into context and verified against the present results.