Measuring the departures from the Boussinesq approximation in Rayleigh-BÃnard convection experiments

H. Kurtuldu, K. Mischaikow, M. F. Schatz

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11 Scopus citations


Algebraic topology (homology) is used to characterize quantitatively non-Oberbeck-Boussinesq (NOB) effects in chaotic Rayleigh-BÃnard convection patterns from laboratory experiments. For fixed parameter values, homology analysis yields a set of Betti numbers that can be assigned to hot upflow and, separately, to cold downflow in a convection pattern. An analysis of data acquired under a range of experimental conditions where NOB effects are systematically varied indicates that the difference between time-averaged Betti numbers for hot and cold flows can be used as an order parameter to measure the strength of NOB-induced pattern asymmetries. This homology-based measure not only reveals NOB effects that Fourier methods and measurements of pattern curvature fail to detect, but also permits distinguishing pattern changes caused by modified lateral boundary conditions from NOB pattern changes. These results suggest a new approach to characterizing data from either experiments or simulations where NOB effects are expected to play an important role.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)543-557
Number of pages15
JournalJournal of Fluid Mechanics
StatePublished - Sep 10 2011

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • Condensed Matter Physics
  • Mechanics of Materials
  • Mechanical Engineering


  • BÃnard convection
  • buoyancy-driven instability
  • pattern formation


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