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'Electrospray' droplet research yields surprising, practical results
Date:1/7/2008

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"This was discovered about a century ago," Basaran said. "Nobody could really show precisely how it happened, but technologically it became very important."

The method could make possible future technologies for creating flexible electronic circuits and solar cells by spraying material in ultra-thin layers.

"Making small drops and controlling drop size is a big deal, and there are many techniques that people are working on to be able to model these computationally or theoretically," Basaran said. "There are many applications that would benefit by knowing the drop size. You cannot predict the drop sizes unless you have simulations to tell you how the strand is going to develop and break up into little droplets."

The same phenomenon occurs in rain clouds. As rain droplets pick up an electrical charge, they take on an elongated football shape. Thin strands form at each end of the football, and those strands, in turn, form small droplets.

"Again, the ends shoot these little strands or jets, which break up into drops," Basaran said. "And this has been suspected for a century to play a major role in how thunderstorms work."

Understanding how the drops form is difficult because the strands are many times thinner than the original liquid from which they formed, which makes the mathematics especially challenging.

"Others had not solved these equations in their full form before because they are very difficult, and we have now solved them without any approximations," Basaran said.

Conventional modeling methods use "diffuse interface" techniques, which do not precisely predict how the strands and droplets form, he said.

The Purdue researchers used a more precise method called finite elements with elliptic mesh generation. The technique breaks down a material into many small segments and solves the mathematical equations governing the behavior of each segment separately. Using the method enable
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Contact: Emil Venere
venere@purdue.edu
765-494-4709
Purdue University
Source:Eurekalert  

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