Shocking Instabilities

The Richtmyer-Meshkov (RM) instability occurs when the interface between two fluids of different density is impulsively accelerated – usually by the passage of a shock wave. The image above shows a thin layer of gaseous sulfur hexafluoride embedded in air. Each vertical line, from left to right, shows the distortion of the two fluids at subsequent time steps after a Mach 1.2 shock wave passes through the gases. The interface’s initial waviness grows into mushroom-like shapes that mix the two gases together, ultimately leading to turbulence. Scenarios involving the RM instability include supersonic combustion ramjet engines, supernovas, and inertial confinement fusion. The RM instability is closely related to Rayleigh-Taylor instability and shares a similar morphology. (Photo credit: D. Ranjan et al.)

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