L. B. Smolka, A. Belmonte, D.M. Henderson and T.P. Witelski
European Journal of Applied Mathematics 15, 679-712 (2004)
We solve the free boundary problem for the dynamics of a cylindrical, axisymmetric viscoelastic filament stretching in a gravity-driven extensional flow for the Upper Convected Maxwell and Oldroyd-B constitutive models. Assuming the axial stress in the filament has a spatial dependence provides the simplest coupling of viscoelastic effects to the motion of the filament, and yields a closed system of ODEs with an exact solution for the stretch rate and filament thickness satisfied by both constitutive models. This viscoelastic solution, which is a generalization of the exact solution for Newtonian filaments, converges to the Newtonian power-law scaling as t -> infinity. Based on the exact solution, we identify two regimes of dynamical behavior called the weakly- and strongly-viscoelastic limits. We compare the viscoelastic solution to measurements of the thinning filament that forms behind a falling drop for several semi-dilute (strongly-viscoelastic) polymer solutions. We find the exact solution correctly predicts the time-dependence of the filament diameter in all of the experiments. As t -> infinity, observations of the filament thickness follow the Newtonian scaling t^(-1/2). The transition from viscoelastic to Newtonian scaling in the filament thickness is coupled to a stretch-to-coil transition of the polymer molecules.