We present in here validation studies of a new method for application in microgravity environment which measures the viscosity of highly viscous undercooled liquids using drop coalescence. The method has the advantage of avoiding heterogeneous nucleation at container walls caused by crystallization of undercooled liquids during processing. Homogeneous nucleation can also be avoided due to the rapidity of the measurement using this method. The technique relies on measurements from experiments conducted in near zero gravity environment as well as highly accurate analytical formulation for the coalescence process. The viscosity of the liquid is determined by allowing the computed free surface shape relaxation time to be adjusted in response to the measured free surface velocity for two coalescing drops. Results are presented from two sets of validation experiments for the method which were conducted on board aircraft flying parabolic trajectories. In these tests the viscosity of a highly viscous liquid, namely glycerin, was determined at different temperatures using the drop coalescence method described in here. The experiments measured the free surface velocity of two glycerin drops coalescing under the action of surface tension alone in low gravity environment using high speed photography. The liquid viscosity was determined by adjusting the computed free surface velocity values to the measured experimental data. The results of these experiments were found to agree reasonably well with the known viscosity for the test liquid used.
The purpose of FMVM is to measure the rate of coalescence of two highly viscous liquid drops and correlate the results with the liquid viscosity and surface tension. The experiment takes advantage of the low gravitational free floating conditions in space to permit the unconstrained coalescence of two nearly spherical drops. The merging of the drops is accomplished by deploying them from a syringe and suspending them on Nomex threads followed by the astronaut s manipulation of one of the drops toward a stationary droplet till contact is achieved. Coalescence and merging occurs due to shape relaxation and reduction of surface energy, being resisted by the viscous drag within the liquid. Experiments were conducted onboard the International Space Station in July of 2004 and subsequently in May of 2005. The coalescence was recorded on video and down-linked near real-time. When the coefficient of surface tension for the liquid is known, the increase in contact radius can be used to determine the coefficient of viscosity for that liquid. The viscosity is determined by fitting the experimental speed to theoretically calculated contact radius speed for the same experimental parameters. Recent fluid dynamical numerical simulations of the coalescence process will be presented. The results are important for a better understanding of the coalescence process. The experiment is also relevant to liquid phase sintering, free form in-situ fabrication, and as a potential new method for measuring the viscosity of viscous glass formers at low shear rates.