When a liquid droplet impacts on a solid surface, it not only deforms substantially but also an air film develops between the droplet and the surface. This thin air film—as well as other transparent films—can be characterized by reflection interference microscopy. Even for weakly reflecting interfaces, relative thickness variations of the order of tens of nanometers are easily detected, yet the absolute thickness is generally known only up to an additive constant which is a multiple of half of the wavelength. Here, we present an optical setup for measuring the absolute film thickness and its spatial and temporal behavior using a combination of a standard Hg lamp, an optical microscope, and three synchronized high-speed cameras to detect conventional side-view images as well as interferometric bottom view images at two different wavelengths. The combination of a dual wavelength approach with the finite coherence length set by the broad bandwidth of the optical filters allows for measuring the absolute thickness of transient air films with a spatial resolution better than 30 nm at 50 μs time resolution with a maximum detectable film thickness of approximately 8 μm. This technique will be exploited in Part II to characterize the air film evolution during low velocity droplet impacts.
de Ruiter, J., Mugele, F. G., & van den Ende, H. T. M. (2015). Air cushioning in droplet impact. I. Dynamics of thin films studied by dual wavelength reflection interference microscopy. Physics of fluids, 27(012104), 012104-. . https://doi.org/10.1063/1.4906114