Saturday, February 22, 2014

Theoretical analysis for the optical deformation of emulsion droplets

David Tapp, Jonathan M. Taylor, Alex S. Lubansky, Colin D. Bain, and Buddhapriya Chakrabarti

We propose a theoretical framework to predict the three-dimensional shapes of optically deformed micron-sized emulsion droplets with ultra-low interfacial tension. The resulting shape and size of the droplet arises out of a balance between the interfacial tension and optical forces. Using an approximation of the laser field as a Gaussian beam, working within the Rayleigh-Gans regime and assuming isotropic surface energy at the oil-water interface, we numerically solve the resulting shape equations to elucidate the three-dimensional droplet geometry. We obtain a plethora of shapes as a function of the number of optical tweezers, their laser powers and positions, surface tension, initial droplet size and geometry. Experimentally, two-dimensional droplet silhouettes have been imaged from above, but their full side-on view has not been observed and reported for current optical configurations. This experimental limitation points to ambiguity in differentiating between droplets having the same two-dimensional projection but with disparate three-dimensional shapes. Our model elucidates and quantifies this difference for the first time. We also provide a dimensionless number that indicates the shape transformation (ellipsoidal to dumbbell) at a value ≈ 1.0, obtained by balancing interfacial tension and laser forces, substantiated using a data collapse.

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