An experimental study of the Richtmyer-Meshkov instability in microgravity

Charles E. Niederhaus, Jeffrey W. Jacobs

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

2 Scopus citations


Richtmyer-Meshkov (RM) instability occurs when a planar interface separating two fluids of different density is impulsively accelerated in the direction of its normal. It is one of the most fundamental fluid instabilities and is of importance to the fields of astrophysics and inertial confinement fusion. Because RM instability experiments are normally carried out in shock tubes, where the generation of a sharp, well-controlled interface between gases is difficult, there is a scarcity of good experimental results. The experiments presented here use a novel technique that circumvents many of the experimental difficulties that have previously limited the study of RM instability in shock tubes. In these experiments, the instability is generated incompressibly, by bouncing a rectangular tank containing two liquids off of a fixed spring. These experiments, which utilize PLIF flow visualization, yield time-motion image sequences of the nonlinear development and transition to turbulence of the instability that are of a quality unattainable in shock tube experiments. Measurements obtained from these images, therefore, provide benchmark data for the evaluation of nonlinear models for the late-time growth of the instability. Because the run time in these experiments is limited, new experiments in the NASA Glenn 2.2 second drop tower, capable of achieving longer run times, are currently under way.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)403-413
Number of pages11
JournalAnnals of the New York Academy of Sciences
StatePublished - 2004


  • Fluid dynamics
  • Interface stability
  • Microgravity
  • Richtmyer-Meshkov instability
  • Taylor instability

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • General Neuroscience
  • General Biochemistry, Genetics and Molecular Biology
  • History and Philosophy of Science


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