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 "instability"

Human eyesight is not always the best for observing how nature behaves around us. Fortunately, we’ve developed cameras and sensors that allow us to effectively see in wavelengths beyond those of visible light. What’s shown here is a frying pan with a thin layer of cooking oil. To the human eye, this would be nothing special, but in the infrared, we can see Rayeigh-Benard convection cells as they form. This instability is a function of the temperature gradient across the oil layer, gravity, and surface tension. As the oil near the bottom of the pan heats up, its density decreases and buoyancy causes it to rise to the surface while cooler oil sinks to replace it. Here the center of the cells is the hot rising oil and the edges are the cooler sinking fluid. The convection cells are reasonably stable when the pan is moved, but, even if they are obscured, they will reform very quickly.  (Video credit: C. Xie)

Loris Cecchini’s "Wallwave Vibration" series is strongly reminiscent of Faraday wave patterns. The Faraday instability occurs when a fluid interface (usually air-liquid though it can also be two immiscible liquids) is vibrated. Above a critical frequency, the flat interface becomes unstable and nonlinear standing waves form. If the excitation is strong enough, the instability can produce very chaotic behaviors, like tiny sprays of droplets or jets that shoot out like fountains. In a series of fluid-filled cells, the chaotic behaviors can even form synchronous effects above a certain vibration amplitude. (Image credit: L. Cecchini; submitted by buckitdrop)

The Kaye effect is particular to shear-thinning non-Newtonian fluids - that is, fluids with a viscosity that decreases under deformation. The video above includes high-speed footage of the phenomenon using shampoo. When drizzled, the viscous liquid forms a heap. The incoming jet causes a dimple in the heap, and the local viscosity in this dimple drops due to the shear caused by the incoming jet. Instead of merging with the heap, the jet slips off, creating a streamer that redirects the fluid. This streamer can rise as the dimple deepens, but, in this configuration, it is unstable. Eventually, it will strike the incoming jet and collapse. It’s possible to create a stable version of the Kaye effect by directing the streamer down an incline. (Video credit: S. Lee)

A core-collapse, or Type II, supernova occurs in massive stars when they can no longer sustain fusion. For most of their lives, stars produce energy by fusing hydrogen into helium. Eventually, the hydrogen runs out and the core contracts until it reaches temperatures hot enough to cause the helium to fuse into carbon. This process repeats through to heavier elements, producing a pre-collapse star with onion-like layers of elements with the heaviest elements near the center. When the core consists mostly of nickel and iron, fusion will come to an end, and the core’s next collapse will trigger the supernova. When astronomers observed Supernova 1987A, the closest supernova in more than 300 years, models predicted that the onion-like layers of the supernova would persist after the explosion. But observations showed core materials reaching the surface much faster than predicted, suggesting that turbulent mixing might be carrying heavier elements outward. The images above show several time steps of a 2D simulation of this type of supernova. In the wake of the expanding shock wave, the core materials form fingers that race outward, mixing the fusion remnants. Hydrodynamically speaking, this is an example of the Richtmyer-Meshkov instability, in which a shock wave generates mixing between fluid layers of differing densities. (Image credit: K. Kifonidis et al.; see also B. Remington)

The ethereal shapes of inks and paints falling through water make fascinating subjects. Here the ink appears to rise because the photographs are upside-down. The fluid forms mushroom-like plumes and little vortex rings. The strands that split apart into tiny lace-like fingers are an example of the Rayleigh-Taylor instability, which occurs when a denser fluid sinks into a less dense one. Similar fingering can occur on much grander scales, as well, like in the Crab Nebula. These images come from photographer Luka Klikovac's "Demersal" series. (Photo credit: L. Klikovac)

Everyone has seen drops of liquid falling onto a dry surface, yet the process is still being unraveled by researchers. We have learned, for example, that lowering the ambient air pressure can completely suppress splashing. Viscosity of the fluid also clearly plays a role, but the relationship between these and other variables is unclear. The images above show two droplet impacts in which the viscosity differs. The top image shows a low viscosity fluid, which almost immediately after impact forms a thin expanding sheet of fluid that lifts off the surface to create a crownlike splash. In contrast, the higher viscosity fluid in the bottom image spreads as a thick lamella with a thinner outer sheet that breaks down at the rim. Researchers found that both the high- and low-viscosity fluids have splashes featuring these thin liquid sheets, but the time scales on which the sheet develops differ. Moreover, lowering the ambient pressure increases the time required for the sheet to develop regardless of the fluid’s viscosity. (Image credit: C. Stevens et al.; submitted by @ASoutIglesias)

Nature is full of surprising behaviors. If one imagines putting a bucket of water on a rotating plate and spinning it, one would expect the water’s free surface to take on a curved, axially symmetric shape. The photos above are from a similar experiment, but instead of the entire container rotating, only the bottom plate spins. Surprisingly, the water’s surface does not remain symmetric around the axis of rotation. Instead, the water forms stable polygon shapes that rotate slower than the spinning plate. As the plate’s rotation speed increases, the number of corners in the polygon increases. Shapes up to a hexagon were observed in the experiment. Photos of the set-up and more experimental results are available, as is the original research paper. Symmetry breaking and polygons can also be found in hydraulic jumps and bumpsliquid sheets, and planetary polar vortices. (Photo credit: T. Jansson et al.; research paper)

When a drop falls on a dry surface, our intuition tells us it will splash, breaking up into many smaller droplets. Yet this is not always the case. The splashing of a droplet depends on many factors, including surface roughness, viscosity, drop size, and—strangely enough—air pressure. It turns out there is a threshold air pressure below which splashing is suppressed. Instead, a drop will spread and flatten without breaking up, as shown in the video above. For contrast, here is the same fluid splashing at atmospheric pressure. This splash suppression at low pressures is observed for both low and high viscosity fluids. Although the mechanism by which gases affect splashing is still under investigation, measurements show that no significant air layer exists under the spreading droplet except near the very edges. This suggests that the splash mechanism depends on how the spreading liquid encroaches on the surrounding gas. (Video credit: S. Nagel et al.; research credit: M. Driscoll et al.)

Early in our geological history, Earth was a hellish landscape of molten oceans into which metallic impactors would sometimes collide. Geophysicists have been curious how the impactors behaved after collision: did they maintain their cohesion, or did they break up into a cloud of droplets? Here the UCLA Spinlab simulates this early planetary formation by dropping liquid gallium through a tank of viscous fluid. As the video shows, the impactor’s behavior varies strongly with size. Smaller impactors stick together as a single diapir, but, as the initial size increases, the diapir becomes unstable, eventually breaking down into a cascade of droplets - a metallic rain through an ocean of magma. (Video credit: J. Wacheul et al./UCLA Spinlab; submitted by J. Aurnou)

This high-speed video of a bullet fired into a water balloon shows how dramatically drag forces can affect an object. In general, drag is proportional to fluid density times an object’s velocity squared. This means that changes in velocity cause even larger changes in drag force. In this case, though, it’s not the bullet’s velocity that is its undoing. When the bullet penetrates the balloon, it transitions from moving through air to moving through water, which is 1000 times more dense. In an instant, the bullet’s drag increases by three orders of magnitude. The response is immediate: the bullet slows down so quickly that it lacks the energy to pierce the far side of the balloon. This is not the only neat fluid dynamics in the video, though. When the bullet enters the balloon, it drags air in its wake, creating an air-filled cavity in the balloon. The cavity seals near the entry point and quickly breaks up into smaller bubbles. Meanwhile, a unstable jet of water streams out of the balloon through the bullet hole, driven by hydrodynamic pressure and the constriction of the balloon. (Video credit: Keyence)