Inspired by protecting people and property from lava flows, researchers investigated how viscous fluids flow downhill past large obstacles. As seen above, when the obstacle is tall enough that the flow does not overtop it, there’s substantial deflection of the fluid both up- and downstream. Upstream of the barrier, the flow gets deeper, and downstream there’s a dry region left behind.
The researchers modeled these flows numerically, leading to equations designers can use to predict the necessary height, strength, and shape of barrier necessary to protect areas from encroaching lava. (Image and research credit: E. Hinton et al.)