Research

Stirring Up

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When a viscoelastic non-Newtonian fluid is stirred, it climbs up the stirring rod. This behavior is known as the Weissenberg effect and results from the polymers in the fluid getting tangled and bunched due to the stirring. You may have noticed this effect in the kitchen when beating egg whites. In this video, researchers explore the effect using rodless stirring. The first example in the video shows a viscous Newtonian fluid being stirred. The stirring action creates a concave shape in the glycerin-air interface, and dye injection shows a toroidal vortex formed over the stirrer. Fluid near the center of the vortex is pulled downward and circulates out to the sides. In contrast, the viscoelastic fluid bulges outward when stirred. Dye visualization reveals fluid being pulled up the center into the bulge. It then travels outward, forming a mushroom-cap-like shape before sinking down the outside. This is also a toroidal vortex, but it rotates opposite the direction of the Newtonian one. Exactly how the polymers create this change in flow behavior is a matter of active research. (Video credit: E. Soto et al.)

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