Rayleigh-Taylor mixing: confinement by stratification and geometry
Rayleigh-Taylor instability has been an area of active research in fluid dynamics for the last twenty years, but relatively little attention has been paid to the dynamics of problems where Rayleigh-Taylor instability plays a role, but is only one component of a more complex system. Here, Rayleigh-Taylor instability between miscible fluids is examined in situations where it is confined by various means: by geometric restriction, by penetration into a stable linear stratification, and by impingement on a stable density interface. Water-based experiments are modelled using a variety of techniques, ranging from simple hand calculation of energy exchange to full three-dimensional numerical simulation. Since there are well known difficulties in modelling unconfined Rayleigh-Taylor instability, the confined test cases have been sequenced to begin with dynamically simple benchmark systems on which existing modelling approaches perform well, then they progress to more complex systems and explore the limitations of the various models. Some work on the phenomenology of turbulent mixing is also presented, including a new experimental technique that allows mixed fluid to be visualised directly, and an analysis of energy transport and mixing efficiency in variable density flows dominated by mixing.