Research

Labyrinth

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A labyrinthine pattern forms in this timelapse video of a multiphase flow in a Hele-Shaw cell. Initially glass beads are suspended in a glycerol-water solution between parallel glass plates with a central hole. Then the fluid is slowly drained over the course of 3 days at a rate so slow that viscous forces in the fluid are negligible. As the fluid drains, fingers of air invade the disk, pushing the beads together. The system is governed by competition between two main forces: surface tension and friction. Narrow fingers gather fewer grains and therefore encounter less friction, but the higher curvature at their tips produces larger capillary forces. The opposite is true of broader fingers. Also interesting to note is the similarity of the final pattern to those seen in confined ferrofluids.  (Video credit and submission: B. Sandnes et al. For more, see B. Sandes et al.)

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