Stationary and transient Soret separation in a binary mixture with a consolute critical point
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The stationary and transient Soret separation in a binary mixture with a consolute critical point is studied theoretically. The mixture is placed between two parallel plates kept at different temperatures. A polymer blend is used as a model system. Analytical solutions are constructed to describe the stationary separation in a binary mixture with variable Soret coefficient. The latter strongly depends on temperature and concentration and enhances near a consolute critical point due to reduced diffusion. As a result, a large concentration gradient is observed locally, while much smaller concentration variations are found in the rest of the layer. It is shown that complete separation can be obtained by applying a small temperature difference first, waiting for the establishment of stationary state, and then increasing this difference again. In this case, the critical temperature lies between hot and cold wall temperatures, while the mixture still remains in the one-phase region. When the initial (mean) temperature or concentration are shifted away from the near-critical values, the separation decreases. The analysis of transient behavior shows that the Soret separation occurs much faster than diffusion to the homogeneous state when the initial concentration is close to the critical one. It happens due to the decrease (increase) of the local relaxation time during the Soret (Diffusion) steps. The transient times of these steps become comparable for small temperature differences or off-critical initial concentrations. An unusual (non-exponential) separation dynamics is observed when the separation starts in the off-critical domain, and then enhances greatly when the system enters into the near-critical region. It is also found that the transient time decreases with increasing the applied temperature difference.