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Rapid evaporation at the superheat limit

Published online by Cambridge University Press:  20 April 2006

J. E. Shepherd
Graduate Aeronautical Laboratories, California Institute of Technology, Pasadena, CA 91125
B. Sturtevant
Graduate Aeronautical Laboratories, California Institute of Technology, Pasadena, CA 91125


In an experimental investigation of the transient processes that occur when a single droplet of butane at the superheat limit vaporizes explosively, short-exposure photographs and fast-response pressure measurements have been used to construct a description of the complete explosion process. It is observed that only a single bubble forms within the drop during each explosion, and that the growth proceeds on a microsecond time scale. An interfacial instability driven by rapid evaporation has been observed on the surface of the bubbles. It is suggested that the Landau mechanism of instability, originally described in connection with the instability of laminar flames, also applies to rapid evaporation at the superheat limit.

The photographic evidence and the pressure data are used to estimate the evapora- tive mass flux across the liquid-vapour interface after the onset of instability. The rate of evaporation is shown to be two orders of magnitude greater than would be predicted by conventional bubble-growth theories that do not account for the effects of instability. An estimate of the mean density within the bubbles during the evaporative stage indicates that it is more than one half of the critical density of butane.

Additional interesting dynamical effects that are observed include a series of toroidal waves that form on the interface between the butane vapour and the external host liquid in the bubble column apparatus after the bubble has grown large enough to contact the outer edge of the drop, and violent oscillations of the bubble that occur on a millisecond time scale, after evaporation of the liquid butane is complete, that cause the disintegration of the bubble into a cloud of tiny bubbles by Rayleigh–Taylor instability.

Research Article
© 1982 Cambridge University Press

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