A number of acoustic and fluid-dynamic phenomena appear in ultrasonic cleaning baths and contribute to physical cleaning of immersed surfaces. Propagation and repeated reflection of ultrasound within cleaning baths build standing-wave-like acoustic fields; when an ultrasound intensity gradient appears in the acoustic fields, it can in principle induce steady streaming flow. When the ultrasound intensity is sufficiently large, cavitation occurs and oscillating cavitation bubbles are either trapped in the acoustic fields or advected in the flow. These phenomena are believed to produce mechanical action to remove contaminant particles attached at material surfaces. Recent studies suggest that the mechanical action of cavitation bubbles is the dominant factor of particle removal in ultrasonic cleaning, but the bubble collapse resulting from high-intensity ultrasound may be violent enough to give rise to surface erosion. In this paper, we aim to carefully examine the role of cavitation bubbles from ultrasonic cleaning tests with varying dissolved gas concentration in water. In our cleaning tests using 28-kHz ultrasound, oxygen-supersaturated water is produced by oxygen-microbubble aeration and used as a cleaning solution, and glass slides spin-coated with silica particles of micron/submicron sizes are used to define cleaning efficiency. High-speed camera recordings and Particle Image Velocimetry analysis with a pressure oscillation amplitude of 1.4 atm at the pressure antinode show that the population of cavitation bubbles increases and streaming flow inside the bath is promoted, as the dissolved oxygen supersaturation increases. The particle removal is found to be achieved mainly by the action of cavitation bubbles, but there exists optimal gas supersaturation to maximize the removal efficiency. Our finding suggests that low-intensity ultrasound irradiation under the optimal gas supersaturation in cleaning solutions allows for having mild bubble dynamics without violent collapse and thus cleaning surfaces without cavitation erosion. Finally, observations of individual bubble dynamics and the resulting particle removal are reported to further support the role of cavitation bubbles as cleaning agents.
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