The inhibition of the Rayleigh-Taylor instability by rotation

Baldwin, K.A. ORCID: 0000-0001-9168-6412, Scase, M.M. and Hill, R.J.A., 2015. The inhibition of the Rayleigh-Taylor instability by rotation. Scientific Reports, 5: 11706. ISSN 2045-2322

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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.

Item Type: Journal article
Description: Article updated on 31 May 2016.
Publication Title: Scientific Reports
Creators: Baldwin, K.A., Scase, M.M. and Hill, R.J.A.
Publisher: Nature Research
Date: 1 July 2015
Volume: 5
ISSN: 2045-2322
BFsrep11706Publisher Item Identifier
Rights: This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 International License. The images or other third party material in this article are included in the article’s Creative Commons license, unless indicated otherwise in the credit line; if the material is not included under the Creative Commons license, users will need to obtain permission from the license holder to reproduce the material. To view a copy of this license, visit
Divisions: Schools > School of Science and Technology
Record created by: Jill Tomkinson
Date Added: 04 Mar 2019 09:42
Last Modified: 04 Mar 2019 09:42

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