The inhibition of the Rayleigh-Taylor instability by rotation
Baldwin, Kyle A. and Scase, Matthew M. and Hill, Richard J.A (2015) The inhibition of the Rayleigh-Taylor instability by rotation. Scientific Reports, 5 (11706). pp. 1-11. ISSN 2045-2322
It is well-established that the Coriolis force that acts on fluid in a rotating system can act to stabilise otherwise unstable flows. Chandrasekhar considered theoretically the effect of the Coriolis force on the Rayleigh-Taylor instability, which occurs at the interface between a dense fluid lying on top of a lighter fluid under gravity, concluding that rotation alone could not stabilise this system indefinitely. Recent numerical work suggests that rotation may, nevertheless, slow the growth of the instability. Experimental verification of these results using standard techniques is problematic, owing to the practical difficulty in establishing the initial conditions. Here, we present a new experimental technique for studying the Rayleigh-Taylor instability under rotation that side-steps the problems encountered with standard techniques by using a strong magnetic field to destabilize an otherwise stable system. We find that rotation about an axis normal to the interface acts to retard the growth rate of the instability and stabilise long wavelength modes; the scale of the observed structures decreases with increasing rotation rate, asymptoting to a minimum wavelength controlled by viscosity. We present a critical rotation rate, dependent on Atwood number and the aspect ratio of the system, for stabilising the most unstable mode.
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