Nonlinear Kelvin-Helmholtz instability of a finite vortex layer

C. Pozrikidis, Jonathan J L Higdon

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


The nonlinear growth of periodic disturbances on a finite vortex layer is examined. Under the assumption of constant vorticity, the evolution of the layer may be analysed by following the contour of the vortex region. A numerical procedure is introduced which leads to higher-order accuracy than previous methods with negligible increase in computational effort. The response of the vortex layer is studied as a function of layer thickness and the amplitude and form of the initial disturbance. For small initial disturbances, all unstable layers form a large rotating vortex core of nearly elliptical shape. The growth rate of the disturbances is strongly affected by the layer thickness; however, the final amplitude of the disturbance is relatively insensitive to the thickness and reaches a maximum value of approximately 20 % of the wavelength. In the fully developed layers, the amplitude shows a small oscillation owing to the rotation of the vortex core. For finite-amplitude initial disturbances, the evolution of the layer is a function of the initial amplitude. For thin layers with thickness less than 3 % of the wavelength, three different patterns were observed in the vortex-core region: a compact elliptic core, an elongated S-shaped core and a bifurcation into two orbiting cores. For thicker layers, stationary elliptic cores may develop if the thickness exceeds 15 % of the wavelength. The spacing and eccentricity of these cores is in good agreement with previously discovered steady-state solutions. The growth rate of interfacial area (or length of the vortex contour) is calculated and is found to approach a constant value in well-developed vortex layers.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)225-263
Number of pages39
JournalJournal of Fluid Mechanics
StatePublished - Aug 1985

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Condensed Matter Physics
  • Mechanics of Materials
  • Mechanical Engineering


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