This dissertation focuses on the deformation of a viscous drop and a vesicle immersed in a (leaky) dielectric fluid under an electric field. A number of mathematical tools, both analytical and numerical, are developed for these investigations. The dissertation is divided into three parts. First, a large-deformation model is developed to capture the equilibrium deformation of a viscous spheroidal drop covered with non-diffusing insoluble surfactant under a uniform direct current (DC) electric field. The large- deformation model predicts the dependence of equilibrium spheroidal drop shape on the permittivity ratio, conductivity ratio, surfactant coverage, and the elasticity number. Results from the model are carefully compared against the small-deformation (quasispherical) analysis, experimental data and numerical simulation results in the literature. Moreover, surfactant effects, such as tip stretching and surface dilution effects, are greatly amplified at large surfactant coverage and high electric capillary number. These effects are well captured by the spheroidal model, but cannot be described in the second-order small-deformation theory.
The large-deformation spheroidal model is then extended to study the equilibrium deformation of a giant unilamellar vesicle (GUV) under an alternating current (AC) electric field. The vesicle membrane is modeled as a thin capacitive spheroidal shell and the equilibrium vesicle shape is computed from balancing the mechanical forces between the fluid, the membrane and the imposed electric field. Detailed comparison against both experiments and small-deformation theory shows that the spheroidal model gives better agreement with experiments in terms of the dependence on fluid conductivity ratio, electric field strength and frequency, and vesicle size. Asymptotic analysis is conducted to compute the crossover frequency where a prolate vesicle crosses over to an oblate shape, and comparisons show the spheroidal model gives better agreement with experimental observations.
Finally, a numerical scheme based on immersed interface method for two-phase fluids is developed to simulate the time-dependent dynamics of an axisymmetric drop in an electric field. The second-order immersed interface method is applied to solving both the fluid velocity field and the electric field. To date this has not been done before in the literature. Detailed numerical studies on this new numerical scheme shows numerical convergence and good agreement with the large-deformation model. Dynamics of an axisymmetric viscous drop under an electric field is being simulated using this novel numerical code.