Limits of the potential flow approach to the single-mode Rayleigh-Taylor problem

P. Ramaprabhu, Guy Dimonte, Yuan Nan Young, A. C. Calder, B. Fryxell

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77 Scopus citations


We report on the behavior of a single-wavelength Rayleigh-Taylor flow at late times. The calculations were performed in a long square duct (λ×λ×8λ), using four different numerical simulations. In contradiction with potential flow theories that predict a constant terminal velocity, the single-wavelength Rayleigh-Taylor problem exhibits late-time acceleration. The onset of acceleration occurs as the bubble penetration depth exceeds the diameter of bubbles, and is observed for low and moderate density differences. Based on our simulations, we provide a phenomenological description of the observed acceleration, and ascribe this behavior to the formation of Kelvin-Helmholtz vortices on the bubble-spike interface that diminish the friction drag, while the associated induced flow propels the bubbles forward. For large density ratios, the formation of secondary instabilities is suppressed, and the bubbles remain terminal consistent with potential flow models.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Article number066308
JournalPhysical Review E - Statistical, Nonlinear, and Soft Matter Physics
Issue number6
StatePublished - 2006

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • Statistical and Nonlinear Physics
  • Statistics and Probability
  • Condensed Matter Physics


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