When an acoustic wave propagates through a viscous fluid, it progressively transfers momentum to the fluid through viscous dissipation, which results in the formation of a steady vortical flow called acoustic streaming. Although spawned by viscous effects, the magnitude of the streaming does not depend on the viscosity in most simple geometries. However, viscosity has a profound influence on the acoustic streaming as demonstrated by Riaud et al. (J. Fluid Mech., vol. 821, 2017, pp. 384–420) in their study of sessile mm-sized water–glycerol droplets placed on a piezoelectric substrate with a 20-MHz ultrasound surface acoustic wave propagating along its surface. A detailed experimental and numerical analysis reveals that streaming dynamics is driven by a few ultrasound ray caustics inside the droplet.
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