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"

Aerial fireworks are essentially semi-controlled exploding rockets. Here Discovery Channel shares high-speed video of fireworks taking off. The turbulent billowing exhaust on the ground is reminiscent of other rocket launches. The tube-launched firework clip is a great example of an underexpanded nozzle. The pressure of the gases in the tube is higher than the ambient air, so when the gases escape, the exhaust fans out to equalize the pressure. And, finally, the explosion that propels the colorful chemicals outward forms jets that can affect the final form of the display. To my American readers: Happy 4th of July! And be safe! (VIdeo credit: Discovery Slow-Down)

Photographers Cassandra Warner and Jeremy Floto produced the "Clourant" series of high-speed photographs of colorful liquid splashes. The artists took special care to disguise the origin of splashes, making them appear like frozen sculptures. The photos are beautiful examples of making fluid effects and instabilities. Many of them feature thin liquid sheets with thicker rims just developing ligaments. In other spots, surface tension has been wholly overcome by momentum’s effects and what was once ligaments has exploded into a spray of droplets. (Photo credit: C. Warner and J. Floto; submitted by jshoer; via Colossal)

The Marangoni effect is generated by variations in surface tension at an interface. Such variations can be temperature-driven, concentration-driven, or simply due to the mixing between fluids of differing surface tensions as is the case here. The pattern in the image above formed after a dyed water droplet impacted a layer of glycerin. The initial impact of the drop formed an inner circle and outer ring. This image is from 30 seconds or so after impact, after the Marangoni instability has taken over. The higher surface tension of the water pulls the glycerin toward it, resulting in a flower-like pattern. (Photo credit: E. Tan and S. Thoroddsen)

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)

The Kelvin-Helmholtz instability looks like a series of overturning ocean waves and occurs between layers of fluids undergoing shear. This video has a great lab demo of the phenomenon, including the set-up prior to execution. When the tank is tilted, the denser dyed salt water flows left while the fresh water flows to the right. These opposing flow directions shear the interface between the two fluids, which, once a certain velocity is surpassed, generates an instability in the interface. Initially, this disturbance is much too small to be seen, but it grows at an exponential rate. This is why nothing appears to happen for many seconds after the tilt before the interface suddenly deforms, overturns, and mixes. In actuality, the unstable perturbation is present almost immediately after the tilt, but it takes time for the tiny disturbance to grow. The Kelvin-Helmholtz instability is often seen in clouds, both on Earth and on other planets, and it is also responsible for the shape of ocean waves. (Video credit: M. Hallworth and G. Worster)

I love science with a sense of humor. This video features a series of clips showing the behavior of droplets on what appears to be a superhydrophobic surface. In particular, there are some excellent examples of drops bouncing on an incline and droplets rebounding after impact. For droplets with enough momentum, impact flattens them like a pancake, with the rim sometimes forming a halo of droplets. If the momentum is high enough, these droplets can escape as satellite drops, but other times the rebound of the drop off the superhydrophobic surface is forceful enough to overcome the instability and draw the entire drop back off the surface.  (Video credit: C. Antonini et al.)

The storm chasing group Basehunters captured this stunning timelapse of a supercell thunderstorm forming in Wyoming. This class of storm is characterized by the presence of a mesocyclone, seen here as a large, rotating cloud. These rotating features form when horizontal wind shear is redirected upright by an updraft. This requires a strong updraft, which is often formed by a capping inversion, where a layer of warm air traps colder air beneath it. Supercells can be very dangerous in their own right, releasing torrential rains and large hail, but they are also capable of spawning violent tornadoes. (Video credit: Basehunters; via Bad Astronomy; submitted by jshoer)

Convection can be driven several mechanisms, including temperature and concentration differences. The video above shows convection between a a layer of sucrose solution and a layer of saline solution. Initially, the lighter sucrose layer sits over the denser salt water. After the interface is perturbed, the differences in concentration - and thus in density - between the fluids causes diffusion both upward and downward in the form of fingers. This instability behavior is analogous to salt-fingering, which occurs in the ocean when a layer of warm, salty water lies over a layer of cooler, less saline water. In the ocean, these temperature and salinity differences help drive ocean circulation as well as the mixing that occurs between different depths. (Video credit: William Jewell College)

Viscous liquid placed between two plates forms a finger-like instability when the top plate is lifted. The photos above show the evolution of the instability for four initial cases (top row, each column) in which the initial gap between the plates differs. Each row shows a subsequent time during the lifting process. As the plate is pulled up, the viscous liquid adheres to it and air from the surroundings is entrained inward to replace the fluid. This forms patterns similar to the classic Saffman-Taylor instability caused when less viscous fluid is injected into a more viscous one.   (Photo credit: J. Nase et al.)

Many systems can exhibit unstable behaviors when perturbed. The classic example is a ball sitting on top of a hill; if you move the ball at all, it will fall down the hill due to gravity. There is no way to perturb the ball in such a way that it will return to the top of the hill; this makes the top of the hill an unstable point. In many dynamical systems, a very small perturbation may not be as obviously unstable as the ball atop the hill, especially at first. Often a perturbation will have a very small effect initially, but it can grow exponentially with time. That is the case in this video. Here a tank of fluid is being vibrated vertically with a constant amplitude. At first, the sloshing effect on the fluid interface is very small. But the vibration frequency sits in the unstable region of the parameter space, and the perturbation, which began as a small sloshing, grows very quickly. In a real system (as opposed to a mathematical one), this kind of unstable or unbounded growth very quickly leads to destruction. (Video credit: S. Srinivas)