Inside Viscous Fingers

Sandwich a viscous fluid between two transparent plates and then inject a second, less viscous fluid. This is the classic set-up for the Saffman-Taylor instability, a well-studied flow in which the interface between the two fluids forms a wavy edge that develops into fingers. Despite its long history, though, there is still more to learn, as shown in this video. Here, researchers alternately injected a dyed and undyed version of the less viscous fluid. The result (Image 3) is a set of concentric dye rings that show how the fluid moves far from the fingers along the edge. Notice that the waviness of the fingers appears in the flowing fluid well before it approaches the interface. (Image and video credit: S. Gowan et al.)

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