Evaporative Convection

Since we spend so much of our lives around transparent fluids like air and water, we often miss seeing some of their coolest-looking flows. Here, we see a layer of water only 3 centimeters deep but a full meter wide. It’s seeded with tiny crystals that reflect light depending on their orientation, which allows us to see the flow. Initially, the tank is spun up, then left stationary for 2 hours while evaporation cools the water.

Normally, the resulting flow would be too slow to notice, but that’s where the magic of timelapse comes in. With it, we can see the wriggling dark lines marking areas where cool, dense water sinks and brighter regions where warm fluid rises. What begins as an array of polygonal convection cells quickly merges into a couple of large, rounded cells. Check out the full video below, where you can see the streaming patterns far better than in animation. (Image and video credit: UCLA Spinlab)

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