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The stability of the variable-density Kelvin-Helmholtz billow

Fontane, Jérôme and Joly, Laurent The stability of the variable-density Kelvin-Helmholtz billow. (2008) Journal of Fluid Mechanics, vol. 6 . pp. 237-260. ISSN 0022-1120

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Official URL: http://dx.doi.org/10.1017/S0022112008002966

Abstract

We perform a three-dimensional stability analysis of the Kelvin-Helmholtz billow, developing in a shear-layer between two fluids with different density. We begin with two-dimensional simulations of the temporally evolving mixing-layer yielding the unsteady base flow fields. The Reynolds number is 1500 while the Schmidt and Froude numbers are infinite. Then exponentially unstable modes are extracted from a linear stability analysis performed at the saturation of the primary mode kinetic energy. The spectrum of the least stable modes exhibits two main classes. The first class comprises three-dimensional core-centred and braid-centred modes already present in the homogeneous case. The baroclinic vorticity concentration in the braid lying on the light side of the KH-billow turns the flow into a sharp vorticity ridge holding high shear levels. The hyperbolic modes benefit from the enhanced level of shear in the braid while elliptic ones remain quite insensitive to the modifications of the base flow. In the second class, we found typical two-dimensional modes resulting from a shear instability of the curved vorticity-enhanced braid. For a density contrast of 0.5, the wavelength of the two-dimensional instability is about ten times shorter than the one of the primary wave. Its amplification rate competes well against the ones of the hyperbolic three-dimensional modes. The vorticity-enhanced braid thus becomes the preferred location for the development of secondary instabilities. This stands as the key feature of the transition of the variable-density mixing layer. We carry out a fully resolved numerical continuation of the nonlinear development of the two-dimensional braid-mode. Secondary roll-ups due to a small-scale Kelvin-Helmholtz mechanism are promoted by the underlying strain field and develop rapidly in the compression part of the braid. Originally analysed in Reinaud et al. (2000) from two-dimensional non-viscous numerical simulations, this instability is shown to substantially increase the mixing.

Item Type:Article
Additional Information:Thanks to Cambridge University Press. The original PDF can be found on the Cambridge University Press website : http://journals.cambridge.org/action/displayJournal?jid=FLM
Audience (journal):International peer-reviewed journal
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Institution: Université de Toulouse > Institut Supérieur de l'Aéronautique et de l'Espace - ISAE
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Deposited By: Laurent JOLY

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