On the molecular mechanism behind the bubble rise velocity jump discontinuity in viscoelastic liquids

D. Bothe*, M. Niethammer*, Christian Pilz, Günter Brenn*

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Bubbles rising in viscoelastic liquids may exhibit a jump discontinuity of the rise velocity as a critical bubble volume is exceeded. This phenomenon has been extensively investigated in the literature, both by means of experiments and via numerical simulations. The occurrence of the velocity jump has been associated with a change of the bubble shape, accompanied by the formation of a pointed tip at the rear end and to the appearance of a so-called negative wake, with the liquid velocity behind the bubble pointing in a direction opposite to that in Newtonian fluids. We revisit this topic, starting with a review of the state of knowledge on the interrelations between the mentioned characteristic features. In search for a convincing explanation of the jump phenomenon, we performed detailed numerical simulations of the transient rise of single bubbles in 3D, allowing for a local analysis of the polymer conformation tensor. The latter shows that polymer molecules traveling along the upper bubble hemisphere are stretched in the circumferential direction, due to the flow kinematics. Then, depending on the relaxation time scale of the polymer, the stored elastic energy is either unloaded essentially above or below the bubble’s equator. In the former case, this slows down the bubble, while the bubble gets accelerated otherwise. In this latter case, the velocity of motion of the polymer molecules along the bubble is increased, giving rise to a self-amplification of the effect and thus causing the bubble rise velocity to jump to a higher level. Detailed experimental velocity measurements in the liquid field around the bubble confirmed the conclusion that the ratio of the time scale of the Lagrangian transport of polymer molecules along the bubble contour to the relaxation time scale of the polymer molecules determines the sub- or supercritical state of the bubble motion.
Original languageEnglish
Article number104748
JournalJournal of Non-Newtonian Fluid Mechanics
Publication statusPublished - Apr 2022


  • Conformation tensor analysis
  • Extended volume of fluid method
  • Hoop stress
  • Kinematic polymer orientation and stretching
  • Lagrangian polymer transport
  • Local stress distribution
  • Negative wake
  • PIV measurements
  • Self-amplifying acceleration mechanism
  • Sub-/supercritical bubble state

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Condensed Matter Physics
  • Mechanical Engineering
  • Applied Mathematics
  • Chemical Engineering(all)
  • Materials Science(all)

Fields of Expertise

  • Advanced Materials Science


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