Transient structures in rupturing thin films: Marangoni-induced symmetry-breaking pattern formation in viscous fluids

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Science Advances  08 Jul 2020:
Vol. 6, no. 28, eabb0597
DOI: 10.1126/sciadv.abb0597


In the minutes immediately preceding the rupture of a soap bubble, distinctive and repeatable patterns can be observed. These quasistable transient structures are associated with the instabilities of the complex Marangoni flows on the curved thin film in the presence of a surfactant solution. Here, we report a generalized Cahn-Hilliard-Swift-Hohenberg model derived using asymptotic theory that describes the quasielastic wrinkling pattern formation and the consequent coarsening dynamics in a curved surfactant-laden thin film. By testing the theory against experiments on soap bubbles, we find quantitative agreement with the analytical predictions of the nucleation and the early coarsening phases associated with the patterns. Our findings provide fundamental physical understanding that can be used to (de-)stabilize thin films in the presence of surfactants and have important implications for both natural and industrial contexts, such as the production of thin coating films, foams, emulsions, and sprays.

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