Centrifugal Instability

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When it comes to geophysics, there are all kinds of phenomena that depend on rotation. In this short video, researchers demonstrate one such phenomena — the centrifugal instability — in a tank on a turn table. The experiment begins once the fluid in the tank is all rotating together, like a solid body would. Then, they reduce the rotation rate of the turn table. Almost immediately, we see rolls encircle the tank.

The rolls form due to the difference in momentum between fluid in the interior and near the wall. Friction with the wall slows the fluid there down much faster than that in the middle of the tank. As the faster-moving fluid gets centrifuged outward, it forms rolls. As the video demonstrates, these rolls can be relatively uniform and laminar, or, with enough change in rotation rate, they can become turbulent. (Image and video credit: UCLA Spinlab)

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