Turbulent Convection

These golden lines reveal the complexity of turbulent convective flow. They come from a numerical simulation of turbulent Rayleigh-Benard convection, a situation in which fluid trapped between two plates is heated from below and cooled from above. This situation would typically create convection cells similar to those seen in clouds or when cooking. Inside these cells, warm fluid rises to the top, cools, and sinks down along the sides. With large enough temperature differences, instabilities will occur and cause the flow to become turbulent so that the clear structure of convection cells breaks down into something more chaotic. Such is the case in this simulation. This visualization shows skin friction on the bottom (heated) plate in a flow of turbulently convecting liquid mercury. The bright lines are areas with large velocity changes at the wall, an indication of high shear stress and vigorous convective flow. (Image credit: J. Scheel et al.; via Gizmodo)

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