This video has a fun and simple demonstration of the importance of fluid density in buoyancy and stratification. Fresh water (red) and salt water (blue) are released together into a small tank. Being lighter and less dense, the red water settles on top of the blue water, though some internal waves muddy their interface. After the water settles, a gate is placed between them once more and one side is thoroughly mixed to create a third fluid density (purple), which, when released, settles between the red and blue layers. In addition to displaying buoyancy, this demo does a great job of showing the internal waves that can occur within a fluid, especially one of varying density like the ocean. (Video credit: UVic Climate Modeling Group)
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.)
In large-scale geophysical flows, rotation and density gradients often play major roles in the structures that form. Here the UCLA SPINLab demonstrates how large, essentially flat vortices—pancake vortices—form in rotating, stratified fluids. The stratification, in this case, is due to the density difference between salt water and fresh water; salt water is denser and therefore less buoyant, so it sinks toward the bottom of the tank. Note how the pancake vortex only forms when the fluid is both stratified and rotating. If it lacks one of the two, the structures will be very different. (Video credit: O. Aubert et al./SPINLab UCLA)
This video explores some of the physics behind the much-loved bursting water balloon. The first sections show some “canonical” cases—dropping water balloons onto a flat rigid surface. In some cases the balloon will bounce and in others it breaks. The bursting water balloons develop strong capillary waves (like ripples) across the upper surface and have some shear-induced deformation of the water surface as the rubber peals away. Then the authors placed a water balloon underwater and vibrated it before bursting it with a pin. They note that the breakdown of the interface between the balloon water and surrounding water shows evidence of Rayleigh-Taylor and Richtmyer-Meshkovinstabilities. The Rayleigh-Taylor instability is the mushroom-like formation observed when stratified fluids of differing densities mix, while the Richtmyer-Meshkov instability is associated with the impulsive acceleration of fluids of differing density.
High-speed video of a tank firing at 18000 fps shows shock waves made visible due to light distortion. When the air density changes (due to temperature or compression), it’s index of refraction changes, causing the background to appear distorted. Most of the video shows the subsonic development of the turbulent exhaust plume. Note the speed at which the exhaust moves relative to the airborne shrapnel. (submitted by Stephan)
Schlieren photography is actually a pretty commonly used system in high-speed experimental aerodynamics. A typical schlieren system will shine a collimated light source on the target (a wind tunnel test section or, above, a candle), bounce that light off a mirror, block half the light with a knife-edge at the focal point, and then record the subsequent images with a camera (high-speed or otherwise). The density of air is closely related to its index of refraction, so light that hits air of a different density will be bent more or less than a neighboring ray. This uneven bending of the light rays due to density gradients is what causes the light and dark areas on the schlieren images. Since the density of air changes drastically across a shock wave, the schlieren system is perfect for visualizing shock waves and has, in fact, been used for that purpose since 1864!
The phenomenon of a fire tornado caught our attention recently after the BBC published footage of one in Brazil. While it may look like the fiery wrath of a god, the fluid dynamics of a fire tornado are relatively simple (see figure above). Still, they make for some pretty wild video.
Many gases may be invisible to the human eye, but that doesn’t make them the same. Sulfur hexafluoride is more than 5 times as dense as air at standard conditions, which lends itself to some fun demonstrations.