Jump rope vortex in liquid metal convection

Tobias Vogt, Susanne Horn, Alexander M. Grannan, Jonathan M. Aurnou

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

52 Citations (Scopus)
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Understanding large-scale circulations (LSCs) in turbulent convective systems is important for the study of stars, planets, and in many industrial applications. The canonical model of the LSC is quasi-planar with additional horizontal sloshing and torsional modes [Brown E, Ahlers G (2009) J Fluid Mech 638:383–400; Funfschilling D, Ahlers G (2004) Phys Rev Lett 92:194502; Xi HD et al. (2009) Phys Rev Lett 102:044503; Zhou Q et al. (2009) J Fluid Mech 630:367–390]. Using liquid gallium as the working fluid, we show, via coupled laboratory-numerical experiments in tanks with aspect ratios greater than unity (Γ∈{2−−√, 2}), that the LSC takes instead the form of a “jump rope vortex,” a strongly 3D mode that periodically orbits around the tank following a motion much like a jump rope on a playground. Further experiments show that this jump rope flow also exists in more viscous fluids such as water, albeit with a far smaller signal. Thus, this jump rope mode is an essential component of the turbulent convection that underlies our observations of natural systems.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)1274-1279
Number of pages6
JournalProceedings of the National Academy of Sciences
Issue number50
Publication statusPublished - 11 Dec 2018
Externally publishedYes

Bibliographical note

Copyright © 2018 the Author(s). Published by PNAS.
This open access article is distributed under Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivatives License 4.0 (CC BY-NC-ND).


  • thermal convection
  • turbulence
  • coherent structures |
  • liquid metals


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