We extend the work of Theofanous and Li [Phys. Fluids20, 052103 (2008)

] on aerobreakup physics of water-like, low viscosity liquid drops, and of Theofanous et al [Phys. Fluids24, 022104 (2012)] for Newtonian liquids of any viscosity, to polymer-thickened liquids over wide ranges of viscoelasticity. The scope includes the full range of aerodynamics from near incompressible to supersonic flows and visualizations are recorded with μsm resolutions. The key physics of Rayleigh-Taylor piercing (RTP, first criticality) and of Shear-Induced Entrainment (SIE, second criticality) are verified and quantified on the same scaling approach as in our previous work, but with modifications due to the shear-thinning and elastic nature of these liquids. The same holds for the onset of surface waves by Kelvin-Helmholtz instability, which is a key attribute of the second criticality. However, in the present case, even at conditions well-past the first criticality, there is no breakup (particulation) to be found; instead the apparently unstable (extensively stretched into sheets) drops rebound elastically to reconstitute an integral mass. Such a resistance to breakup is found also past the second criticality, now with extensive filament formation that maintain a significant degree of cohesiveness, until the gas-dynamic pressure is high enough to cause filament ruptures. Thereby we define the onset of a third criticality peculiar to viscoelastic liquids—SIER, for SIE with ruptures. Past this criticality the extent of particulation increases and the characteristic dimension of fragments generated decreases in a more or less continuous fashion with increasing dynamic pressure. We outline a rheology-based scaling approach for these elasticity-modulated phenomena and suggest a path to similitude (with polymer and solvent variations) in terms of a critical rupture stress that can be measured independently. The advanced stages of breakup and resulting particle clouds are observed and a clear definition and quantification of breakup time is offered.

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