Stability of thin fluid films characterised by a complex form of effective disjoining pressure

Michael Angelo Y.H. Lam, Linda J. Cummings, Lou Kondic

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

11 Scopus citations


We discuss instabilities of fluid films of nanoscale thickness, with a particular focus on films where the destabilising mechanism allows for linear instability, metastability, and absolute stability, depending on the mean film thickness. Our study is motivated by nematic liquid crystal films; however, we note that similar instability mechanisms, and forms of the effective disjoining pressure, appear in other contexts, such as the well-studied problem of polymeric films on two-layered substrates. The analysis is carried out within the framework of the long-wave approximation, which leads to a fourth-order nonlinear partial differential equation for the film thickness. Within the considered formulation, the nematic character of the film leads to an additional contribution to the disjoining pressure, changing its functional form. This effective disjoining pressure is characterised by the presence of a local maximum for non-vanishing film thickness. Such a form leads to complicated instability evolution that we study by analytical means, including the application of marginal stability criteria, and by extensive numerical simulations that help us develop a better understanding of instability evolution in the nonlinear regime. This combination of analytical and computational techniques allows us to reach novel understanding of relevant instability mechanisms, and of their influence on transient and fully developed fluid film morphologies. In particular, we discuss in detail the patterns of drops that form as a result of instability, and how the properties of these patterns are related to the instability mechanisms.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)925-961
Number of pages37
JournalJournal of Fluid Mechanics
StatePublished - Apr 25 2018

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • Condensed Matter Physics
  • Mechanics of Materials
  • Mechanical Engineering


  • complex fluids
  • non-Newtonian flows
  • thin films


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