Settling of a vesicle in the limit of quasi-spherical shapes

Abstract : Vesicles are drops of radius of a few tens of micrometres bounded by an impermeable lipid membrane of approximately 4 nm thickness in a viscous fluid. The salient characteristics of such a deformable object are a membrane rigidity governed by flexion due to curvature energy and a two-dimensional membrane fluidity characterized by a local membrane incompressibility. This provides unique properties with strong constraints on the internal volume and membrane area. Yet, when subjected to external stresses, vesicles exhibit a large deformability. The deformation of a settling vesicle in an infinite flow is studied theoretically, assuming a quasispherical shape and expanding all variables of the problem onto spherical harmonics. The contribution of thermal fluctuations is neglected in this analysis. A system of equations describing the temporal evolution of the shape is derived with this formalism. The final shape and the settling velocity are then determined and depend on two dimensionless parameters: the Bond number and the excess area. This simultaneous study leads to three stationary shapes, an egg-like shape already observed in an analogous experimental configuration in the limit of weak flow magnitude (Chatkaew, Georgelin, Jaeger & Leonetti, Phys. Rev. Lett, 2009, vol. 103(24), 248103), a parachute-like shape and a non-trivial non-axisymmetrical shape. The final shape depends on the initial conditions: prolate or oblate vesicle and orientation compared with gravity. The analytical solution in the small deformation regime is compared with numerical results obtained with a three-dimensional code. A very good agreement between numerical and theoretical results is found.
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Gwenn Boedec, Marc Jaeger, Marc Leonetti. Settling of a vesicle in the limit of quasi-spherical shapes. Journal of Fluid Mechanics, Cambridge University Press (CUP), 2012, 690, pp.227-261. 〈10.1017/jfm.2011.427〉. 〈hal-00997678〉



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