Journal of Fluid Mechanics

Growth of fingers at an unstable diffusing interface in a porous medium or Hele-Shaw cell

R. A.  Wooding a1
a1 C.S.I.R.O. Division of Plant Industry, Canberra, A.C.T., Australia

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Waves at an unstable horizontal interface between two fluids moving vertically through a saturated porous medium are observed to grow rapidly to become fingers (i.e. the amplitude greatly exceeds the wavelength). For a diffusing interface, in experiments using a Hele-Shaw cell, the mean amplitude taken over many fingers grows approximately as (time)2, followed by a transition to a growth proportional to time. Correspondingly, the mean wave-number decreases approximately as (time)−½. Because of the rapid increase in amplitude, longitudinal dispersion ultimately becomes negligible relative to wave growth. To represent the observed quantities at large time, the transport equation is suitably weighted and averaged over the horizontal plane. Hyperbolic equations result, and the ascending and descending zones containing the fronts of the fingers are replaced by discontinuities. These averaged equations form an unclosed set, but closure is achieved by assuming a law for the mean wave-number based on similarity. It is found that the mean amplitude is fairly insensitive to changes in wave-number. Numerical solutions of the averaged equations give more detailed information about the growth behaviour, in excellent agreement with the similarity results and with the Hele-Shaw experiments.

(Published Online March 29 2006)
(Received April 17 1969)

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