The linear stability of a semi-infinite fluid undergoing a shearing motion over a fluid layer that is laden with soluble surfactant and that is bounded below by a plane wall is investigated under conditions of Stokes flow. While it is known that this configuration is unstable in the presence of an insoluble surfactant, it is shown via a linear stability analysis that surfactant solubility has a stabilising effect on the flow. As the solubility increases, large-wavelength perturbations are stabilised first, leaving open the possibility of mid-wave instability for moderate surfactant solubilities, and the flow is fully stabilised when the solubility exceeds a threshold value. The predictions of the linear stability analysis are supported by an energy budget analysis which is also used to determine the key physical effects responsible for the (de)stabilisation. Asymptotic expansions performed for long-wavelength perturbations turn out to be non-uniform in the insoluble surfactant limit. In keeping with the findings for insoluble surfactant obtained by Pozrikidis & Hill (IMA J Appl Math 76:859–875, 2011), the presence of the wall is found to be a crucial factor in the instability.
- Interfacial instability
- Liquid film