Extensional flow of a free film of nematic liquid crystal with moderate elasticity

M. J. Taranchuk, L. J. Cummings, T. A. Driscoll, R. J. Braun

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The human tear film is a multilayer structure in which the dynamics are often strongly affected by a floating lipid layer. That layer has liquid crystalline characteristics and plays important roles in the health of the tear film. Previous models have treated the lipid layer as a Newtonian fluid in extensional flow. Motivated to develop a more realistic treatment, we present a model for the extensional flow of thin sheets of nematic liquid crystal. The rod-like molecules of these substances impart an elastic contribution to the rheology. We rescale a weakly elastic model due to Cummings et al. ["Extensional flow of nematic liquid crystal with an applied electric field,"Eur. J. Appl. Math. 25, 397-423 (2014).] to describe a lipid layer of moderate elasticity. The resulting system of two nonlinear partial differential equations for sheet thickness and axial velocity is fourth order in space, but still represents a significant reduction of the full system. We analyze solutions arising from several different boundary conditions, motivated by the underlying application, with particular focus on dynamics and underlying mechanisms under stretching. We solve the system numerically, via collocation with either finite difference or Chebyshev spectral discretization in space, together with implicit time stepping. At early times, depending on the initial film shape, pressure either aids or opposes extensional flow, which changes the free surface dynamics of the sheet and can lead to patterns reminiscent of those observed in tear films. We contrast this finding with the cases of weak elasticity and Newtonian flow, where the sheet retains the same qualitative shape throughout time.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Article number062113
JournalPhysics of Fluids
Issue number6
StatePublished - Jun 1 2023

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • Computational Mechanics
  • Condensed Matter Physics
  • Mechanics of Materials
  • Mechanical Engineering
  • Fluid Flow and Transfer Processes


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