Extensional flow of a free film of nematic liquid crystal with moderate elasticity


Motivated by problems arising in tear film dynamics, we present a model for the extensional flow of thin sheets of nematic liquid crystal. The rod-like molecules of these substances impart an elastic contribution to its response. We rescale a weakly elastic model due to Cummings et al. [European Journal of Applied Mathematics 25 (2014): 397-423] to describe a case of moderate elasticity. The resulting system of two nonlinear partial differential equations for sheet thickness and axial velocity is nonlinear and fourth order in space, but still represents a significant reduction of the full system. We analyze solutions arising from several different boundary conditions, motivated by the underlying application, with particular focus on dynamics and underlying mechanisms under stretching. We solve the system numerically, via collocation with either finite difference or Chebyshev spectral discretization in space, together with implicit time stepping. At early times, depending on the initial film shape, pressure either aids or opposes extensional flow, which changes the shape of the sheet and may result in the loss of a minimum or maximum at the moving end. We contrast this finding with the cases of weak elasticity and Newtonian flow, where the sheet retains all extrema from the initial condition throughout time.