Droplet Coalescence is Initiated by Thermal Motion
Perumanath S, Borg MK, Chubynsky MV, Sprittles JE, Reese JM, Physical Review Letters 122 :104501 (2019).
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The classical notion of the coalescence of two droplets of the same radius R is that surface tension drives an initially singular flow. In this Letter we show, using molecular dynamics simulations of coalescing water nanodroplets, that after single or multiple bridges form due to the presence of thermal capillary waves, the bridge growth commences in a thermal regime. Here, the bridges expand linearly in time much faster than the viscous-capillary speed due to collective molecular jumps near the bridge fronts. Transition to the classical hydrodynamic regime only occurs once the bridge radius exceeds a thermal length scale l_T