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Experiments are performed on axisymmetric spreading of viscous drops on glass plates. Two liquids are investigated: silicone oil (M-100), which spreads to ‘infinity’, and paraffin oil, which spreads to a finite-radius steady state. The experiments with silicone oil partly recover the behaviour of previous workers’ data; those experiments with paraffin oil provide new data. It is found that gravitational forces dominate at long enough times while at shorter times capillary forces dominate. When the plate is heated or cooled with respect to the ambient gas, thermocapillary forces generate flows that alter the spreading dynamics. Heating (cooling) the plate is found to retard (augment) the spreading. Moreover, in case of partial wetting, the drop radius finally approached is smaller (larger) for a heated (cooled) plate. These data are all new. All these observations are in good quantitative agreement with the related model predictions of Ehrhard & Davis (1991). A breakdown of the axisymmetric character of the flow is observed only for very long times and/or very thin liquid layers.
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