The unpredictable nature of bubble evolution

Jack Lawless, Jack Keeler, Antoine Gaillard, Andrew Hazel, Anne Juel

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Unpredictable dynamics arising from a sensitivity to initial conditions is commonly associated with chaos. We demonstrate how similar unpredictability manifests in a nonlinear system that possesses a large number of long-term outcomes, namely the propagation of an air bubble within a viscous fluid-filled channel. The system under investigation supports various stable states of single-bubble propagation. In addition, bubbles can readily break up during their propagation. Upon subjecting steadily-propagating bubbles to finite-amplitude perturbations in the form of localised channel constrictions, we identify localised regions of the driving flow rate for which the resulting evolutions are unpredictable. Visibly-indistinguishable bubbles are observed to evolve towards a multitude of long-term outcomes, including each of the stable states available to the initial bubble and various states of permanently-changed bubble topology. By combining high-precision experimental results with simulations of a depth-averaged lubrication model of the system, we determine that this behaviour is driven by a sensitive dependence on initial conditions within the vicinity of an unstable periodic orbit.
Original languageEnglish
Article number20752
JournalScientific Reports
Publication statusPublished - 1 Dec 2022

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