Scale-dependent Rayleigh-Taylor dynamics with variable acceleration by group theory approach

Snezhana I. Abarzhi, Kurt C. Williams

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

8 Citations (Scopus)


Rayleigh-Taylor instability (RTI) has critical importance for a broad range of plasma processes, from supernovae to fusion. In most instances, RTI is driven by variable acceleration, whereas the bulk of existing studies have considered only constant and impulsive acceleration. This work focuses on RTI driven by acceleration with a power-law time-dependence. We review the existing theoretical approaches, apply the group theory approach to solve this long-standing problem, and yield the unified framework for the scale-dependent dynamics of Rayleigh-Taylor (RT) bubbles and RT spikes. For the early-time linear dynamics, we provide the dependence of RTI evolution on the acceleration parameters and the initial conditions. For the late-time nonlinear dynamics, we find a continuous family of asymptotic solutions, directly link the interface velocity to the interface morphology and the interfacial shear, derive solutions for the regular bubbles and for the singular spikes, and study the stability of these solutions. The properties of special nonlinear solutions in the RT family are scrupulously described, including the critical, Taylor, Layzer-drag, and Atwood solutions. It is shown that the fastest Atwood bubble is regular and stable, and the fastest Atwood spike is singular and unstable. The essentially multi-scale and interfacial character of RT dynamics is demonstrated. The former can be understood by viewing the RT coherent structure of bubbles and spikes as a standing wave with the growing amplitude. The latter implies that RT flow has effectively no motion of the fluids away from the interface and has intense motion of the fluids near the interface, with shear-driven vortical structures appearing at the interface. Our theory agrees with available observations and elaborates extensive benchmarks for future research and for better understanding of RT driven phenomena in plasmas.

Original languageEnglish
Article number072107
JournalPhysics of Plasmas
Issue number7
Publication statusPublished - 1 Jul 2020


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