Electrohydrodynamic interaction of spherical particles under Quincke rotation

Debasish Das, David Saintillan

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37 Citations (Scopus)


Weakly conducting dielectric particles suspended in a dielectric liquid of higher conductivity can undergo a transition to spontaneous sustained rotation when placed in a sufficiently strong dc electric field. This phenomenon of Quincke rotation has interesting implications for the rheology of these suspensions, whose effective viscosity can be controlled and reduced by application of an external field. While previous models based on the rotation of isolated particles have provided accurate estimates for this viscosity reduction in dilute suspensions, discrepancies have been reported in more concentrated systems where particle-particle interactions are likely significant. Motivated by this observation, we extend the classic description of Quincke rotation based on the Taylor-Melcher leaky dielectric model to account for pair electrohydrodynamic interactions between two identical spheres using the method of reflections. A coupled system of evolution equations for the dipole moments and angular velocities of the spheres is derived that accounts for electric dipole-dipole interactions and hydrodynamic rotlet interactions up to order O(R-5), where R is the separation distance between the spheres. A linear stability analysis of this system shows that interactions modify the value of the critical electric field for the onset of Quincke rotation: both electric and hydrodynamic interactions can either stabilize or destabilize the system depending on the orientation of the spheres, but the leading effect of interactions on the onset of rotation is hydrodynamic. We also analyze the dynamics in the nonlinear regime by performing numerical simulations of the governing equations. In the case of a pair of spheres that are fixed in space, we find that particle rotations always synchronize in magnitude at long times, though the directions of rotation of the spheres need not be the same. The steady-state angular velocity magnitude depends on the configuration of the spheres and electric field strength and agrees very well with an asymptotic estimate derived for corotating spheres. In the case of freely-suspended spheres, dipolar interactions are observed to lead to a number of distinct behaviors depending on the initial relative configuration of the spheres and on any infinitesimal initial perturbation introduced in the system: in some cases the spheres slowly separate in space while steadily rotating, while in other cases they pair up and either corotate or counterrotate depending on their orientation relative to the field.

Original languageEnglish
Article number043014
Number of pages14
JournalPhysical Review E - Statistical, Nonlinear, and Soft Matter Physics
Issue number4
Publication statusPublished - 29 Apr 2013


  • Quincke rotation
  • dielectric particles
  • spherical particles


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