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Destabilisation of liquid sheets of dilute emulsions

Abstract : One of the major environmental issues related to spraying of pesticides on cultivated crops is the drift phenomenon. Because of the wind, small droplets may drift away from the targeted crop and cause contamination. One way to reduce the drift is to control the spray drop size distribution and reduce the proportion of small drops. In this context, anti-drift additives have been developed, including dilute oil-in-water emulsions. Although being documented, the effects of oil-in-water emulsions on spray drop size distribution are not yet understood. The objective of this thesis is to determine the mechanisms at the origin of the changes of the spray drop size distribution for emulsion-based sprays.Agricultural spraying involves atomizing a liquid stream through a hydraulic nozzle. At the exit of the nozzle, a free liquid sheet is formed, which is subsequently destabilized into droplets. In order to elucidate the mechanisms causing the changes of the spray drop size distribution, we investigate the influence of emulsions on the destabilization mechanisms of liquid sheets. Model single-tear experiments based on the collision of one tear of liquid on a small solid target are used to produce and visualize liquid sheets with a fast camera. Upon impact, the tear flattens into a sheet radially expanding in the air bounded by a thicker rim. Different destabilization mechanisms of the sheet are observed depending on the fluid properties. A pure water sheet spreads out radially and then retracts due to the effect of surface tension. Simultaneously, the rim corrugates forming radial ligaments, which are subsequently destabilized into droplets. The destabilization mechanism is drastically modified when a dilute oil-in-water emulsion is used. Emulsion-based liquid sheets are destabilized through the nucleation of holes within the sheet that perforate the sheet during its expansion. The holes grow until they merge together and form a web of ligaments, which are then destabilized into drops.The physical-chemical parameters of the emulsion, such as emulsion concentration and emulsion droplet size distribution, are modified to rationalize their influence on the perforation mechanism. We correlate the size distribution of drops issued from conventional agricultural spray with the amount of perforation events in single-tear experiments, demonstrating that the single-tear experiment is an appropriate model experiment to investigate the physical mechanisms governing the spray drop size distribution of anti-drift formulations. We show that the relevant mechanism causing the increase of drops size in the emulsion-based spray is a perforation mechanism.To gain an understanding of the physical mechanisms at the origin of the perforation events, we develop an optical technique that allows the determination of the time and space-resolved thickness of the sheet. We find that the formation of a hole in the sheet is systematically preceded by a localized thinning of the liquid film. We show that the thinning results from the entering and Marangoni-driven spreading of emulsion oil droplet at the air/water interface. The localized thinning of the liquid film ultimately leads to the rupture of the film. We propose the perforation mechanism as a sequence of two necessary steps: the emulsion oil droplets (i) enter the air/water interface, and (ii) spread at the interface. We show that the formulation of the emulsion is a critical parameter to control the perforation. The addition of salt or amphiphilic copolymers can trigger or completely inhibit the perforation mechanism. We show that the entering of oil droplets at the air/water interface is the limiting step of the mechanism. Thin-film forces such as electrostatic or steric repulsion forces stabilize the thin film formed between the interface and the approaching oil droplets preventing the entering of oil droplets at the interface and so inhibit the perforation process.
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Clara Vernay. Destabilisation of liquid sheets of dilute emulsions. Materials Science [cond-mat.mtrl-sci]. Université Montpellier, 2015. English. ⟨NNT : 2015MONTS199⟩. ⟨tel-01254934v2⟩

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