The influence of electric fields and surface tension on Kelvin–Helmholtz instability in two-dimensional jets

Scott Grandison, Demetrios T. Papageorgiou, Jean-Marc Vanden-Broeck

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8 Citations (Scopus)


We consider nonlinear aspects of the flow of an inviscid two-dimensional jet into a second immiscible fluid of different density and unbounded extent. Velocity jumps are supported at the interface, and the flow is susceptible to the Kelvin–Helmholtz instability. We investigate theoretically the effects of horizontal electric fields and surface tension on the nonlinear evolution of the jet. This is accomplished by developing a long-wave matched asymptotic analysis that incorporates the influence of the outer regions on the dynamics of the jet. The result is a coupled system of long-wave nonlinear, nonlocal evolution equations governing the interfacial amplitude and corresponding horizontal velocity, for symmetric interfacial deformations. The theory allows for amplitudes that scale with the undisturbed jet thickness and is therefore capable of predicting singular events such as jet pinching. In the absence of surface tension, a sufficiently strong electric field completely stabilizes (linearly) the Kelvin–Helmholtz instability at all wavelengths by the introduction of a dispersive regularization of a nonlocal origin. The dispersion relation has the same functional form as the destabilizing Kelvin–Helmholtz terms, but is of a different sign. If the electric field is weak or absent, then surface tension is included to regularize Kelvin–Helmholtz instability and to provide a well-posed nonlinear problem. We address the nonlinear problems numerically using spectral methods and establish two distinct dynamical behaviors. In cases where the linear theory predicts dispersive regularization (whether surface tension is present or not), then relatively large initial conditions induce a nonlinear flow that is oscillatory in time (in fact quasi-periodic) with a basic oscillation predicted well by linear theory and a second nonlinearly induced lower frequency that is responsible for quasi-periodic modulations of the spatio-temporal dynamics. If the parameters are chosen so that the linear theory predicts a band of long unstable waves (surface tension now ensures that short waves are dispersively regularized), then the flow generically evolves to a finite-time rupture singularity. This has been established numerically for rather general initial conditions.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)125-144
Number of pages20
JournalZeitschrift für angewandte Mathematik und Physik
Issue number1
Publication statusPublished - 2012

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