Truck Vortices

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The video above shows vortex rings of smoke ejected from the burning tire of a moving truck. Without seeing the damaged tire, it’s tough to pinpoint the cause with certainty, but here are a couple of ideas. Typically vortex rings are formed with a burst of air through a narrow orifice; this is, for example, how humans, dolphins, vortex cannons, and volcanoes all make smoke rings. If air is escaping the tire through small holes, this could cause rings. Unlike in those situations, though, the tire is spinning, which means its motion is already imparting vorticity to the flow, so that any air escaping the tire forms a vortex ring. (Video credit: The Armory; submitted by eruditebaboon)

ETA: Others are suggesting the vortex rings are due to a failure of the engine, with unsteady exhaust velocities resulting in the vortex structures. I think this might still depend on the exhaust pipe’s geometry. Regardless of the exact cause, the video remains an interesting bit of fluid dynamics.

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