Journal of Fluid Mechanics

Fluid dynamical aspects of the levitation-melting process

A. D.  Sneyd a1 and H. K.  Moffatt a2
a1 University of Waikato, Hamilton, New Zealand
a2 Department of Applied Mathematics and Theoretical Physics, Silver Street, Cambridge

Article author query
sneyd ad   [Google Scholar] 
moffatt hk   [Google Scholar] 


When a piece of metal is placed above a coil carrying a high frequency current, the induced surface currents in the metal can provide a Lorentz force which can support it against gravity; at the same time the heat produced by Joule dissipation can melt the metal. This is the process of ‘levitation melting’, which is a well-established technique in fundamental work in physical and chemical metallurgy. Most theoretical studies of magnetic levitation have dealt only with solid conductors and so have a voided the interesting questions of interaction between the free surface, the magnetic field and the internal flow. These fluid dynamical aspects of the process are studied in this paper.

A particular configuration that is studied in detail is a cylinder levitated by two equal parallel currents in phase; this is conceived as part of a toroidal configuration which avoids a difficulty of conventional configurations, viz the leakage of fluid through the ‘magnetic hole’ at a point on the metal surface where the surface tangential magnetic field vanishes. The equilibrium and stability of the solid circular cylinder is first considered; then the dynamics of the surface film when melting begins; then the equilibrium shape of the fully melted body (analysed by means of a general variational principle proved in § 5); and finally the dynamics of the interior flow, which, as argued in § 2, is likely to be turbulent when the levitated mass is of the order of a few grams or greater.

(Published Online April 20 2006)
(Received May 28 1981)

Related Content