Journal of Fluid Mechanics

Transition stages of Rayleigh–Taylor instability between miscible fluids

a1 Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory, Livermore, CA 94550, USA
a2 Graduate Aeronautical Laboratories, California Institute of Technology, Pasadena, CA 91125, USA


Direct numerical simulations (DNS) are presented of three-dimensional, Rayleigh–Taylor instability (RTI) between two incompressible, miscible fluids, with a 3:1 density ratio. Periodic boundary conditions are imposed in the horizontal directions of a rectangular domain, with no-slip top and bottom walls. Solutions are obtained for the Navier–Stokes equations, augmented by a species transport-diffusion equation, with various initial perturbations. The DNS achieved outer-scale Reynolds numbers, based on mixing-zone height and its rate of growth, in excess of 3000. Initial growth is diffusive and independent of the initial perturbations. The onset of nonlinear growth is not predicted by available linear-stability theory. Following the diffusive-growth stage, growth rates are found to depend on the initial perturbations, up to the end of the simulations. Mixing is found to be even more sensitive to initial conditions than growth rates. Taylor microscales and Reynolds numbers are anisotropic throughout the simulations. Improved collapse of many statistics is achieved if the height of the mixing zone, rather than time, is used as the scaling or progress variable. Mixing has dynamical consequences for this flow, since it is driven by the action of the imposed acceleration field on local density differences.

(Received June 2 2000)
(Revised March 28 2001)