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 "laminar flow"

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!

A simple cylinder in a steady flow creates a beautiful wake pattern known as a von Karman vortex street. The image above shows several examples of this pattern. Flow is from bottom to top, and the Reynolds number is increasing from left to right. In the experiment, this increasing Reynolds number corresponds to increasing the flow velocity because the cylinder size, fluid, and temperature were all fixed. As the Reynolds number first increases, the cylinder begins to shed vortices. The vortices alternate the side of the cylinder from which they are shed as well as alternating in their sense of rotation (clockwise or counterclockwise). Further increasing the Reynolds number increases the complexity of the wake, with more and more vortices being shed. The vortex street is a beautiful example of how fluid behavior is similar across a range of scales from the laboratory to our planet’s atmosphere.  (Image credit: Z. Trávníček et. al)

There were so many good fluids links this week that I decided for an off-week fluids round-up. Here we go!

(Video credit: #5facts/Sesame Street)

Air dancers—those long fabric tubes with fans blowing into the bottom—are a popular way for shops to draw attention. They bend and flutter, shake and kink, all due to the interaction of airflow in and around them with the fabric. When the interior flow is smooth and laminar, the tube will stand upright, with very little motion. As the air inside transitions, some fluttering of the tube can be observed. Ultimately, it is when the air flow becomes turbulent that the cloth really dances. Variations in the flow are strong enough at this point that the tube will occasionally buckle. Behind this constriction, the flow pressure increases until its force is enough to overcome the weight of the tube and lift it once more. (Video credit: A. Varsano)

Fluorescent oil sprayed onto a model in the NASA Langley 14 by 22-Foot Subsonic Wind Tunnel glows under ultraviolet light. Airflow over the model pulls the initially even coat of oil into patterns dependent on the air’s path. The air accelerates around the curved leading edge of the model, curling up into a strong lifting vortex similar to that seen on a delta wing. At the joint where the wings separate from the body those lifting vortices appear to form strong recirculation zones, as evidenced by the spiral patterns in the oil. Dark patches, like those downstream of the engines could be caused by an uneven application of oil or by areas of turbulent flow, which has larger shear stress at the wall than laminar flow and thus applies more force to move the oil away. Be sure to check out NASA’s page for high-resolution versions of the photo. (Photo credit: NASA Langley/Preston Martin; via PopSci)

A buoyant plume of smoke rises from a stick of incense. At first the plume is smooth and laminar, but even in quiescent air, tiny perturbations can sneak into the flow, causing the periodic vortical whorls seen near the top of the photo. Were the frame even taller, we would see this transitional flow become completely chaotic and turbulent. Despite having known the governing equations for such flow for over 150 years, it remains almost impossible to predict the point where flow will transition for any practical problem, largely because the equations are so sensitive to initial conditions. In fact, some of the fundamental mathematical properties of those equations remain unproven. (Photo credit: M. Rosic)

Although turbulent flows are known for their mixing efficiency, in manufacturing there can often be a need to mix laminar fluid streams without the increased shear stress of a turbulent flow. This can be particularly important for polymeric liquids, where too much shear stress could damage the polymer chains. One possibility is using a static mixer, such as the one demonstrated in this video, which, when placed in pipe flow, will deflect the pipe’s contents in such a way as to produce efficient mixing over a short distance. Here two streams of high-viscosity epoxy are mixed through such a static mixer, hardened, and then ground to show the mixing at each level of the static mixer. (Video credit: Sulzer)

Any time there is relative motion between a solid and a fluid, a small region near the surface will see a large change in velocity. This region, shown with smoke in the image above, is called the boundary layer. Here air flows from right to left over a spinning spheroid. At first, the boundary layer is laminar, its flow smooth and orderly. But tiny disturbances get into the boundary layer and one of them begins to grow. This disturbance ultimately causes the evenly spaced vortices we see wrapping around the mid-section of the model. These vortices themselves become unstable a short distance later, growing wavy before breaking down into complete turbulence. (Photo credit: Y. Kohama)

In this image a jet of water (clear/white) is rinsing a solution of polyacrylamide (PAM; blue) off a silicon surface. In the center, a hydraulic jump marks the interface where fast-moving laminar flow changes to a slower turbulent one. At the same time, the water, which is less viscous than the PAM, creates viscous finger-like protrusions into the blue liquid as it rinses the surface clean. (Photo credit: T. Walker, T. Hsu, and G. Fuller)

In the midst of holiday travels, take a moment (particularly if you’re flying through Detroit) to enjoy the simple beauty of WET Design’s fountain in the McNamara Terminal. Laminar jets arc through the air almost like perfect crystalline columns of fluid. Watch closely and you’ll see a few wavy variations—like a Plateau-Rayleigh instability creeping in—but there will be no turbulence to distress passengers and passers-by. (Video credit: WET Design)