The influence of surfactant on the breakup of a prestretched bubble in a quiescent viscous surrounding is studied by a combination of direct numerical simulation and the solution of a long-wave asymptotic model. The direct numerical simulations describe the evolution toward breakup of an inviscid bubble, while the effects of small but non-zero interior viscosity are readily included in the long-wave model for a fluid thread in the Stokes flow limit.
The direct numerical simulations use a specific but realizable and representative initial bubble shape to compare the evolution toward breakup of a clean or surfactant-free bubble and a bubble that is coated with insoluble surfactant. A distinguishing feature of the evolution in the presence of surfactant is the interruption of bubble breakup by formation of a slender quasi-steady thread of the interior fluid. This forms because the decrease in surface area causes a decrease in the surface tension and capillary pressure, until at a small but non-zero radius, equilibrium occurs between the capillary pressure and interior fluid pressure.
The long-wave asymptotic model, for a thread with periodic boundary conditions, explains the principal mechanism of the slender thread's formation and confirms, for example, the relatively minor role played by the Marangoni stress. The large-time evolution of the slender thread and the precise location of its breakup are, however, influenced by effects such as the Marangoni stress and surface diffusion of surfactant.