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The Rayleigh-Taylor Instability Under Rotation

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If you have a question about this talk, please contact Dr Henry Burridge.

“… rotation does not affect the instability or stability, as such, of a [two-layer] stratification” (Chandrasekhar 1961) – is this true?

Interest in the Rayleigh-Taylor Instability has increased progressively since Lord Rayleigh’s (1883) initial work and the investigations of Taylor (1950) and Lewis (1950). The motivation for the research has evolved in time, from the purely strategic interests of Taylor and Lewis to include the energy-supply and astrophysical focus of more recent work. The now-familiar structure of the Rayleigh-Taylor Instability has been observed at small scales in inertial confinement problems, where the instability may limit the length of stable operation of a nuclear fusion facility, to extremely large scales, as observed in the Crab Nebula. Here we investigate the effects of rotation upon the instability. In particular, we consider whether a statically unstable arrangement may be stabilized by rotation of the system.

A variational approach, based on the work of Miles (1964) and Lamb (1932), is used to develop a number of testable predictions. Whereas classical experiments have required the use of a lock-release mechanism to instigate the flow (or elaborate rocketry rigs), novel experiments using a high-powered super-conducting magnet have been devised to test the predictions.

This talk is part of the Fluid Mechanics (CUED) series.

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