Understanding the destabilizing role for surface tension in planar shear flows in terms of wave interaction

L. Biancofiore, E. Heifetz, J. Hoepffner, F. Gallaire

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Both surface tension and buoyancy force in stable stratification act to restore perturbed interfaces back to their initial positions. Hence, both are intuitively considered as stabilizing agents. Nevertheless, the Taylor-Caulfield instability is a counterexample in which the presence of buoyancy forces in stable stratification destabilize shear flows. An explanation for this instability lies in the fact that stable stratification supports the existence of gravity waves. When two vertically separated gravity waves propagate horizontally against the shear, they may become phase locked and amplify each other to form a resonance instability. Surface tension is similar to buoyancy but its restoring mechanism is more efficient at small wavelengths. Here, we show how a modification of the Taylor-Caulfield configuration, including two interfaces between three stably stratified immiscible fluids, supports interfacial capillary gravity whose interaction yields resonance instability. Furthermore, when the three fluids have the same density, an instability arises solely due to a pure counterpropagating capillary wave resonance. The linear stability analysis predicts a maximum growth rate of the pure capillary wave instability for an intermediate value of surface tension corresponding to We-1=5, where We denotes the Weber number. We perform direct numerical nonlinear simulation of this flow and find nonlinear destabilization when 2≤We-1≤10, in good agreement with the linear stability analysis. The instability is present also when viscosity is introduced, although it is gradually damped and eventually quenched.

Original languageEnglish
Article number103901
JournalPhysical Review Fluids
Issue number10
StatePublished - Oct 2017


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