Ultrasonic atomization of liquids in drop-chain acoustic fountains

Julianna C. Simon, Oleg A. Sapozhnikov, Vera A. Khokhlova, Lawrence A. Crum, Michael R. Bailey

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

61 Scopus citations


When focused ultrasound waves of moderate intensity in liquid encounter an air interface, a chain of drops emerges from the liquid surface to form what is known as a drop-chain fountain. Atomization, or the emission of micro-droplets, occurs when the acoustic intensity exceeds a liquid-dependent threshold. While the cavitation-wave hypothesis, which states that atomization arises from a combination of capillary-wave instabilities and cavitation bubble oscillations, is currently the most accepted theory of atomization, more data on the roles of cavitation, capillary waves, and even heat deposition or boiling would be valuable. In this paper, we experimentally test whether bubbles are a significant mechanism of atomization in drop-chain fountains. High-speed photography was used to observe the formation and atomization of drop-chain fountains composed of water and other liquids. For a range of ultrasonic frequencies and liquid sound speeds, it was found that the drop diameters approximately equalled the ultrasonic wavelengths. When water was exchanged for other liquids, it was observed that the atomization threshold increased with shear viscosity. Upon heating water, it was found that the time to commence atomization decreased with increasing temperature. Finally, water was atomized in an overpressure chamber where it was found that atomization was significantly diminished when the static pressure was increased. These results indicate that bubbles, generated by either acoustic cavitation or boiling, contribute significantly to atomization in the drop-chain fountain.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)129-146
Number of pages18
JournalJournal of Fluid Mechanics
StatePublished - Mar 2015

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • Condensed Matter Physics
  • Mechanics of Materials
  • Mechanical Engineering


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