Science Off the Sphere: Liquid Lenses

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Astronaut Don Pettit delivers more “Science Off The Sphere” in his latest video. Here he demonstrates diffusion and convection in a two-dimensional water film in microgravity. He notes that the viscous damping in the water is relatively low and that, left undisturbed, mixing in the film will continue for 5-10 minutes before coming to rest, which tells us that the Reynolds numbers of the flow are reasonably large. The structures formed are also intriguing; he notes that drops mix with mushroom-like shapes that are reminiscent of Rayleigh-Taylor instabilities and cross-sectional views of vortex rings. It would be interesting to compare experiments from the International Space Station with earthbound simulations of two-dimensional mixing and turbulence, given that the latter behaves so differently in 2D.

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