Convection Visualization

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Here on Earth a fascinating form of convection occurs every time we put a pot of water on the stove. As the fluid near the burner warms up, its density decreases compared to the cooler fluid above it. This triggers an instability, causing the cold fluid to drift downward due to gravity while the warm fluid rises. Once the positions are reversed, the formerly cold fluid is being heated by the burner while the formerly hot fluid loses its heat to the air. The process continues, causing the formation of convection cells. The shapes these cells take depend on the fluid and its boundary conditions. For the pot of water on the stove and in the video above, the surface tension of the air/water interface can also play a role in modifying the shapes formed. The effects caused by the temperature gradient are called Rayleigh-Benard convection. The surface tension effects are sometimes called Benard-Marangoni convection.

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