Vena contracta suppression in dilute polymer solutions



Very small amounts of high molecular weight polymers were found to eliminate vena contracta formation in flow through a circular orifice. This effect was reflected in the decreased efflux time for drainage between two fixed levels in a tank, reductions up to 30% being obtained. Aqueous solutions of seven commercially available polymers were studied, consisting of a poly(acrylic acid), two polyacrylamides of different degrees of hydrolysis, and four poly(ethylene oxides) of widely differing molecular weights. The poly(acrylic acid) and two highest molecular weight poly(ethylene oxides) each caused a sudden drop in efflux time at a “critical concentration”, which was 2, 50, and 90 wppm, respectively, for these three polymers. An explanation of this phenomenon in terms of the high Deborah number flow field existing near the orifice edge is advanced. In the case of the polyacrylamide solutions, a very gradual reduction in efflux time with increasing polymer concentration was observed, beginning at about 3 wppm. Coincident with this was the formation of a wine-glass stem or converging flow field upstream of the orifice. Such a flow field was not observed for the other solutions. It is suggested that vena contracta inhibition with polyacrylamide is simply a manifestation of solution die swell. The reason for the differing efflux time behavior between the various polymers is not known and represents a challenging problem for further study.