Buoyancy-driven attraction of active droplets

Yibo Chen, Kai Leong Chong, Haoran Liu, Roberto Verzicco, Detlef Lohse*

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticleAcademicpeer-review

1 Citation (Scopus)
11 Downloads (Pure)


For dissolving active oil droplets in an ambient liquid, it is generally assumed that the Marangoni effect results in repulsive interactions, while the buoyancy effects caused by the density difference between the droplets, diffusing product and the ambient fluid are usually neglected. However, it has been observed in recent experiments that active droplets can form clusters due to buoyancy-driven convection (KrÜger et al., Eur. Phys. J. E, vol. 39, 2016, pp. 1-9). In this study we numerically analyse the buoyancy effect, in addition to the propulsion caused by Marangoni flow (with its strength characterized by the Péclet number). The buoyancy effects have their origin in (i) the density difference between the droplet and the ambient liquid, which is characterized by the Galileo number; and (ii) the density difference between the diffusing product (i.e. filled micelles) and the ambient liquid, which can be quantified by a solutal Rayleigh number. We analyse how the attracting and repulsing behaviour of neighbouring droplets depends on the control parameters, and. We find that while the Marangoni effect leads to the well-known repulsion between the interacting droplets, the buoyancy effect of the reaction product leads to buoyancy-driven attraction. At sufficiently large, even collisions between the droplets can take place. Our study on the effect of further shows that with increasing, the collision becomes delayed. Moreover, we derive that the attracting velocity of the droplets, which is characterized by a Reynolds number, is proportional to, where is the distance between the neighbouring droplets normalized by the droplet radius. Finally, we numerically obtain the repulsive velocity of the droplets, characterized by a Reynolds number, which is proportional to. The balance of attractive and repulsive effect leads to, which agrees well with the transition curve between the regimes with and without collision.

Original languageEnglish
Article numberA54
JournalJournal of fluid mechanics
Publication statusPublished - 8 Feb 2024


  • UT-Hybrid-D
  • collective behaviour
  • active matter


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