Theoretical and Computational Fluid Dynamics

, Volume 31, Issue 2, pp 137–157 | Cite as

Rigorous theory for transient capillary imbibition in channels of arbitrary cross section

Original Article


This article addresses a classical fluid mechanics problem where the effect of capillary action on a column of viscous liquid is analyzed by quantifying its time-dependent penetrated length in a narrow channel. Despite several past studies, a rigorous mathematical formulation of this inherently unsteady process is still unavailable, because these existing works resort to a crucial assumption only valid for mildly transient systems. The approximate theories use an integral approach where the penetration is described by equating total force acting on the domain to rate of change of total momentum. However, while doing so, the viscous resistance under temporally varying condition is assumed to be same as the resistance created by a quasi-steady velocity profile. Thus, leading order error appears due to such approximation which can only be true when the variation in time is not strong enough causing negligible transient deviation in the hydrodynamic quantities. The present paper proposes a new way to solve this problem by considering the unsteady field itself as an unknown variable. Accordingly, the analysis applies an eigenfunction expansion of the flow with unknown time-dependent amplitudes which along with the unsteady intrusion length are calculated from a system of ordinary differential equations. A comparative exploration identifies the situation for which the integral approach and the rigorous technique based on eigenfunction expansion deviate from each other. It also reveals that the two methods differ substantially in short-time dynamics at the initial stage. Then, an asymptotic perturbation shows how the two sets of results should coincide in their long-time behavior. In this way, the findings will provide a comprehensive understanding of the physics behind the transport phenomenon.


Time-dependent fluid penetration Capillary action Unsteady channel flow Transient velocity profile Eigenfunction expansion 


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Copyright information

© Springer-Verlag Berlin Heidelberg 2016

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Mechanical Engineering DepartmentTexas Tech UniversityLubbockUSA

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