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 "flow visualization"

Ethereal forms shift and swirl in photographer Thomas Herbich’s series “Smoke”. The cigarette smoke in the images is a buoyant plume. As it rises, the smoke is sheared and shaped by its passage through the ambient air. What begins as a laminar plume is quickly disturbed, rolling up into vortices shaped like the scroll on the end of a violin. The vortices are a precursor to the turbulence that follows, mixing the smoke and ambient air so effectively that the smoke diffuses into invisibility. To see the full series, see Herbich’s website.  (Image credits: T. Herbich; via Colossal; submitted by @jchawner@__pj, and Larry B)

P.S. - FYFD now has a page listing all entries by topic, which should make it easier for everyone to find specific topics of interest. Check it out!

Corals may appear static, but near the surface the tiny hair-like cilia of these polyps are churning the water. Although it has been known for some time that corals have cilia, scientists had previously assumed they only moved water parallel to the coral’s surface. Instead recent flow visualizations show that the cilia’s movements generate larger-scale vortical flows near the coral that can help draw fresh nutrients in as well as flush waste away. This means that, instead of being reliant on currents and tides, corals can exert some control on their environment in order to get what they need. This insight into coral cilia may shed some light on the micro- and macroscopic flows generated by other cilia, like those in our lungs. For a similar example of seemingly-passive organisms generating their own flows, check out how mushrooms create air currents to spread their spores.  (Image credits: O. Shapiro et al. and MIT News; source video; h/t to Katie B)

The schlieren optical technique is ideal for visualizing differences in fluid density and is an important tool for revealing flows humans cannot see with their naked eyes. In this high speed video, a professor lights a match. The initial strike generates friction and heat sufficient to convert some of the red phosphorus in the match head to its more volatile white phosphorus form. We see this in the schlieren as the cloud-like burst in the first several seconds. The heat from the phosphorus combustion ignites the sulfur fuel and potassium chlorate oxidizer in the match head to create a more sustained flame. During this period, wavy, smoke-like whorls of hot air rise from around the flame as buoyancy takes over. The upward movement of hot air draws in cooler air from the surroundings, providing the flame with an ongoing source of oxygen and allowing it to grow.  (Video credit: RMIT University)

Smoke released from the end of a test blade shows the helical pattern of a tip vortex from a horizontal-axis wind turbine. Like airplane wings, wind turbine blades generate a vortex in their wake, and the vortices from each blade can interact downstream as seen in this video. These intricate wakes complicate wind turbine placement for wind farms. A turbine located downstream of one of its fellows not only has a decreased power output but also has higher fatigue loads than the upstream neighbor. In other words, the downstream turbine produces less power and will wear out sooner. Researchers visualize, measure, and simulate turbine wakes and their interactions to find ways of maximizing the wind power generated. (Photo credit: National Renewable Energy Laboratory)

In the summer months, a breeze can set long grasses waving in an impressive display. Similar behaviors are seen in aquatic plants during tides. Researchers simulate the behavior in two-dimensions using a flowing soap film and nylon filaments. Flow visualization reveals the strong differences between flow above and between the grass. Vortices recirculate between the filaments at speeds much slower than the flow overhead. The instantaneous interaction of the high-speed freestream, the unsteady vortices, and the resistance of the grass results in familiar synchronous waves of grain.  (Video credit: R. Singh et al.)

These photos are shadowgraphs of a hydrogen flame exploding inside a balloon. The shadowgraph optical technique highlights density and temperature variations through their effect on a fluid’s refractive index. Here we see that the hydrogen flame has a strong cellular structure and is more turbulent than a methane flame. The cellular structure is a sign of an instability in the curved flame front. The instability and accompanying cellular appearance are a result of the complicated transport and reaction of fuel and oxidizer inside the flame. (Photo credits: P. Julien et al.)

When a viscoelastic non-Newtonian fluid is stirred, it climbs up the stirring rod. This behavior is known as the Weissenberg effect and results from the polymers in the fluid getting tangled and bunched due to the stirring. You may have noticed this effect in the kitchen when beating egg whites. In this video, researchers explore the effect using rodless stirring. The first example in the video shows a viscous Newtonian fluid being stirred. The stirring action creates a concave shape in the glycerin-air interface, and dye injection shows a toroidal vortex formed over the stirrer. Fluid near the center of the vortex is pulled downward and circulates out to the sides. In contrast, the viscoelastic fluid bulges outward when stirred. Dye visualization reveals fluid being pulled up the center into the bulge. It then travels outward, forming a mushroom-cap-like shape before sinking down the outside. This is also a toroidal vortex, but it rotates opposite the direction of the Newtonian one. Exactly how the polymers create this change in flow behavior is a matter of active research. (Video credit: E. Soto et al.)

The upside down jellyfish, Cassiopea, rests its bell against the ocean floor and points its frilly oral arms up toward the sun for the benefit of the symbiotic algae living on it. In return, the algae provide some of the nutrients the jellyfish needs. The rest it obtains by filter feeding for zooplankton. The video above shows how a combination of flow visualization and simplified computational modeling can reveal the jellyfish’s methods for eating. A simple pulsing bell has limited fluid flow in the region of the jellyfish’s mouths, but the addition of a permeable layer (representative of the oral arms) significantly enhances mixing. (Video credit: T. Rodriguez et al.)

The human eye has a thin tear film over its surface to maintain moisture and provide a smooth optical surface. The film consists of multiple layers: a lipid layer at the air interface to decrease surface tension and delay evaporation; an aqueous middle layer; and an inner layer of hydrophilic mucins that keep the film attached to the eye. The entire film is a few microns thick, with the lipid layer estimated to be only 50-100 nm thick and the mucin layer just a few tenths of a micron. The aqueous portion of the tear film is supplied from the lacrimal gland in the corner of the eye. In the animation above, the fresh aqueous fluid is fluorescent. It gathers in the corner of the eye several seconds after a blink due to reflex tearing. The tear fluid then flows around the outer edges of the eye until the subject blinks and the fresh tear gets distributed throughout the film. (Research credit: L. Li et al.; original video)

The human eye has a thin tear film over its surface to maintain moisture and provide a smooth optical surface. The film consists of multiple layers: a lipid layer at the air interface to decrease surface tension and delay evaporation; an aqueous middle layer; and an inner layer of hydrophilic mucins that keep the film attached to the eye. The entire film is a few microns thick, with the lipid layer estimated to be only 50-100 nm thick and the mucin layer just a few tenths of a micron. The aqueous portion of the tear film is supplied from the lacrimal gland in the corner of the eye. In the animation above, the fresh aqueous fluid is fluorescent. It gathers in the corner of the eye several seconds after a blink due to reflex tearing. The tear fluid then flows around the outer edges of the eye until the subject blinks and the fresh tear gets distributed throughout the film. (Research credit: L. Li et al.; original video)

Many fish swim in close proximity to one another in large schools, causing scientists to wonder if this behavior is motivated primarily by defense against predators or whether fish derive some hydrodynamic advantages from schooling. Examining the fluid dynamics of an entire school of fish is rather impractical, so researchers approximate two neighboring swimmers using flapping hydrofoils. The images above show flow visualizations of the wakes of these two mechanical swimmers. When the two hydrofoils flap in-phase with one another (top image), one oscillation period produces a complicated pattern of many vortices zig-zagging behind the foils. This configuration produces more efficient propulsion than a single hydrofoil, meaning that more of the energy in the wake is used to produce thrust. The cost, however, is reduced thrust overall. The bottom image shows the wake pattern for hydrofoils flapping out-of-phase. This behavior enhanced thrust without reducing propulsive efficiency. The results suggest that schooling fish might choose different swimming strategies depending on the situation.   (Image credits: P. Dewey et al.