Fluctuating hydrodynamics as a tool to investigate nucleation of cavitation bubbles

Mirko Gallo, Francesco Magaletti, Carlo Massimo Casciola

Research output: Contribution to journalArticle


Vapor bubbles can be formed in liquids by increasing the temperature over the boiling threshold (evaporation) or by reducing the pressure below its vapor pressure threshold (cavitation). The liquid can be held in these tensile conditions (metastable states) for a long time without any bubble formation. The bubble nucleation is indeed an activated process, in fact a given amount of energy is needed to bring the liquid from that local stable condition into a more stable one, where a vapor bubble is formed. Crucial question in this field is how to correctly estimate the bubble nucleation rate, i.e. the amount of vapor bubbles formed in a given time and in a given volume of liquid, in different thermodynamic conditions. Several theoretical models have been proposed, ranging from classical nucleation theory, to density functional theory. These theories can give good estimate of the energy barriers but lack of a precise estimate of the nucleation rate, especially in complex systems. Molecular dynamics simulations can give more precise results, but the computational cost of this technique makes it unfeasible to be applied on systems larger than few tenth of nanometers. In this work the approach of fluctuating hydrodynamics has been embedded into a continuum diffuse interface modeling of the two-phase fluid. The resulting model provides a complete description of both the thermodynamic and fluid dynamic fields enabling the description of vapor-liquid phase change through stochastic fluctuations. The continuum model has been exploited to investigate the bubble nucleation rate in different metastable conditions. Such an approach has a huge impact since it reduces the computational cost and allows to investigate longer time scales and larger spatial scales with respect to more conventional techniques.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)345-357
Number of pages13
JournalInternational Journal of Computational Methods and Experimental Measurements
Issue number2
Publication statusPublished - 1 Jan 2018


  • Bubble
  • Diffuse interface
  • Fluctuating hydrodynamics
  • Nucleation
  • Thermal fluctuations

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