Fuck Yeah Fluid Dynamics

Celebrating the physics of all that flows. Ask a question, submit a post idea or send an email. You can also follow FYFD on Twitter and Google+. FYFD is written by Nicole Sharp, PhD.

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Posts tagged "Rayleigh Taylor instability"

Chemical Bouillon’s art often mixes chemistry and fluid dynamics. Here dense UV dyes falling through a less dense fluid form long strings with mushroom-like caps or tree-like branches. (For reference, gravity is pointing up relative to the video frame in most clips.) This behavior is related to the Rayleigh-Taylor instability that deforms interfaces and causes mixing between unstably stratified fluids.  (Video credit: Chemical Bouillon)

Alberto Seveso's gorgeous high-speed photos of ink diffusing in water have a dramatic sense of texture to them. Though still delicate, the whorls of fluid seem almost solid enough to touch. Watch the edges, though, and you can see thin wisps of color and hints of instabilities. Like cream poured into coffee, these ink sculptures are short-lived. Some of his works are available as prints or wallpapers (zip file). (Photo credit: Alberto Seveso)

Here on Earth, placing a dense layer of fluid atop a less dense layer is unstable. Specifically, the situation causes the interface between the two fluids to break down in what is known as the Rayleigh-Taylor instability.The video above shows a 2D numerical simulation of this breakdown, with the darker, denser fluid on top. The waviness of the initial interface provides a perturbation—a small disturbance—which grows in time. The two fluids spiral into one another in a fractal-like mushroom pattern. The continued motion of the dense fluid downward and the lighter fluid upward mixes the entire volume toward a uniform equilibrium. For those interested in the numerical methods used, check out the original video page. (Video credit: Thunabrain)

Artist Corrie White uses dyes and droplets to capture fantastical liquid sculptures at high-speed. The mushroom-like upper half of this photo is formed when the rebounding jet from one droplet’s impact on the water is hit by a well-timed second droplet, creating the splash’s umbrella. In the lower half of the picture, we see the remains of previous droplets, mixing and diffusing into the water via the Rayleigh-Taylor instability caused by their slight difference in density relative to the water. There’s also a hint of a vortex ring, likely from the droplet that caused the rebounding jet. (Photo credit: Corrie White)

This super high resolution video (check the original on YouTube) by filmmaker Jacob Schwarz features slow motion diffusion of ink into water. The subtle differences in density between the ink and the water promote instabilities such as the Rayleigh-Taylor instability and its distinctive cascade of mushroom- or umbrella-like shapes. The mixing of two fluids seems like a simple concept, but the reality is beautiful, complex, and always fascinating. (Video credit: J. Schwarz; submitted by Rebecca S.)

When a droplet falls through an air/water interface, a vortex ring can form and fall through the liquid. In this video, the researchers investigate the effects of a stratified fluid interface on this falling vortex ring. In this case, a less dense fluid sits atop a denser one. Depending on the density of the initial falling droplet and the distance it travels through the first fluid, the behavior and break-up of the vortex ring when it hits the denser fluid differs. Here four different behaviors are demonstrated, including bouncing and trapping of the vortex ring. (Video credit: R. Camassa et al.)

When a dense fluid sits above a lighter fluid in a gravitational field, the interface between the two fluids is unstable. It breaks down via a Rayleigh-Taylor instability, with mushroom-like protrusions of the lighter fluid into the heavier one. The image above comes from a numerical simulation of this effect well after the initial instability; the darker colors represent denser fluids and lighter colors are less dense fluids. The flow here has progressed to turbulence, and the authors of the simulation are exploring the statistical nature of this flow breakdown relative to the classical case of isotropic, homogeneous turbulence. (Photo credit: W. Cabot and Y. Zhou)

One of the most commonly observed fluid instabilities is the Rayleigh-Taylor instability, which occurs between fluids of differing densities.  It’s most often seen when a denser fluid sits over a lower density fluid. In the video above, this is demonstrated experimentally: a lower density green fluid mixes in with the clear, higher density fluid.  This is the classical case in which each initial region of fluid is uniform in density prior to the removal of the barrier.  But what happens when each zone has its own variation in density? This is the second case.  Before the barrier is removed, each region of the tank has a varying—or stratified—fluid density.  In this case, the unmixed fluids are stably stratified, meaning that the fluid density increases with depth. At the barrier interface, the two separate fluids are still unstably stratified—with the denser fluid on top—so when the barrier is removed, the Rayleigh-Taylor instability still drives their mixing. Because of the stable stratification within the original unmixed fluids, the mixing region after the barrier’s removal is more limited. (Video credit: M. D. Wykes and S. B. Dalziel; via PhysicsCentral by APS)

Artist D. A. Siqueiros sometimes used a technique he referred to as “accidental painting” in his work, in which he would pour a layer of one color of paint and then pour a second color over it.  The two colors would mix in striking patterns.  Here researchers recreate the technique and analyze the fluid dynamics of it.  Each paint has a slightly different density thanks to the pigments used to color them.  When a denser paint is poured over a less dense one (as in the white on black in the video), this activates the Rayleigh-Taylor instability.  The white paint will tend to sink down below the black paint due to gravity. At the same time, the spreading of the two paints also affects the shapes and patterns through mixing and diffusion. (Video credit: S. Zetina and R. Zenit)