Bubbles are familiar, but antibubbles are a bit more unusual. An antibubble typically has a liquid-air-liquid interface, with a thin shell of air separating a liquid droplet from the surrounding fluid. Although they look rather like bubbles, antibubbles behave differently. Antibubbles are, for example, very sensitive to pressure changes. A sinking antibubble like the one in the video above, experiences a higher pressure on its lower face. This pressure compresses the gas shell and thins it on the bottom. The air shell bursts at the thin point and the antibubble collapses, generating two vortex rings and a small, buoyantly rising bubble. (Video credit: S. Dorbolo et al.)
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Vortex rings show up remarkably often in nature. In addition to being the playthings of dolphins, whales, scuba divers, humans, and swimmers, vortex rings appear in volcanic outbursts and spore-spreading peat mosses. Vortex rings even occur in blood flow through the human left ventricle in the heart. In each of these cases, the vortex ring is formed by impulsively accelerating fluid through a narrow opening, like the dolphin’s blowhole. The fluid at the edge of injected jet is slowed by friction with the quiescent surrounding fluid. The fluid at the edge of the jet then slips around the sides and into the wake of the faster-moving fluid, where it’s accelerated through the middle of the forming vortex ring. This spinning from the inside-out and back-in persists as long as the vortex is intact, and is part of what keeps the ring from dissipating. (Video credit: SeaWorld; submitted by John C.)
Italy’s Mount Etna is erupting again, producing a series of beautiful vortex rings. Like a dolphin’s bubble ring or a vortex cannon, the volcano's rings are formed when gases are rapidly expelled through a narrow opening. Such formations are extremely common but are generally not visible to the eye. In this case, steam has gotten entrained into the rings to make them visible. Vortex rings can maintain their structure over substantial distances. The photographer of these rings noted that they lasted as many as ten minutes before dissipating. (Photo credit: T. Pfeiffer; via NatGeo)
We take for granted that drops which impact a solid surface will splash, but, in fact, drops only splash when the surrounding air pressure is high enough. When the air pressure is low enough, drops simply impact and spread, regardless of the fluid, drop height, or surface roughness. Why this is and what role the surrounding air plays remains unclear. Here researchers visualize the air flow around a droplet impact. In (a) we see the approaching drop and the air it pulls with it. Upon impact in (b) and (c) the drop spreads and flattens while a crown of air rises in its wake. The drop’s spread initiates a vortex ring that is pinned to the drop’s edge. In later times (d)-(f) the vortex ring detaches from the drop and rolls up. (Photo credit: I. Bischofberger et al.)
Droplet rebound is frequently associated with superhydrophobic surfaces but can also be generated by very large temperature differences. For very hot substrates, a thin layer of the drop vaporizes on contact via the Leidenfrost effect and helps a drop rebound by preventing it from wetting the surface. This video shows almost the opposite: a water droplet hitting solid carbon dioxide (-79 degrees C). Upon contact, the solid carbon dioxide sublimates, creating a thin layer of gas that separates the droplet from the surface. You can also see the vortex ring that accompanies the drop’s impact. Water vapor near the carbon dioxide surface has condensed into tiny airborne droplets that act as tracer particles that reveal the vortex’s formation and the rebounding droplet’s wake. (Video credit: C. Antonini et al.; Research paper)
Even something as simple as a falling sphere meeting a wall is composed of beautiful fluid motion. In Figure 1 above, we see side-view images of a sphere at low Reynolds number falling toward a wall over several time. Initially an axisymmetric vortex ring is visible in the sphere’s wake; when the sphere touches the wall, secondary vortices form and the wake vortex moves down and out along the wall in an axisymmetric fashion (Figure 2, top view). At higher Reynolds numbers, like those in Figure 3, this axisymmetric spreading of the vortex ring develops an instability and ultimately breaks down. (Photo credit: T. Leweke et al.)
When a drop falls from a moderate height into a shallow pool, its impact creates a complicated pattern. The photo above is a composite image showing a top-down view 100 ms after such an impact. On the left side, the flow is visualized using dye whereas the right shows a schlieren photograph, in which contrast indicates variations in density. Both methods show the same general structure - an inner vortex ring generated at the edge of the impact crater and formed mostly of drop fluid and an outer vortex ring, consisting primarily of pool fluid, formed by the spreading wave. Both regions show signs of instability and breakdown. (Photo credit: A. Wilkens et al.)
Artist Corrie White uses dyes and droplets to capture fantastical liquid sculptures at high-speed. The mushroom-like upper half of this photo is formed when the rebounding jet from one droplet’s impact on the water is hit by a well-timed second droplet, creating the splash’s umbrella. In the lower half of the picture, we see the remains of previous droplets, mixing and diffusing into the water via the Rayleigh-Taylor instability caused by their slight difference in density relative to the water. There’s also a hint of a vortex ring, likely from the droplet that caused the rebounding jet. (Photo credit: Corrie White)
The video above shows vortex rings of smoke ejected from the burning tire of a moving truck. Without seeing the damaged tire, it’s tough to pinpoint the cause with certainty, but here are a couple of ideas. Typically vortex rings are formed with a burst of air through a narrow orifice; this is, for example, how humans, dolphins, vortex cannons, and volcanoes all make smoke rings. If air is escaping the tire through small holes, this could cause rings. Unlike in those situations, though, the tire is spinning, which means its motion is already imparting vorticity to the flow, so that any air escaping the tire forms a vortex ring. (Video credit: The Armory; submitted by eruditebaboon)
ETA: Others are suggesting the vortex rings are due to a failure of the engine, with unsteady exhaust velocities resulting in the vortex structures. I think this might still depend on the exhaust pipe’s geometry. Regardless of the exact cause, the video remains an interesting bit of fluid dynamics.
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.)