Document Type

Journal Article

Role

author

Standard Number

0031-9007

Journal Title

Physical Review. Letters

Volume

88

Issue

25

Last Page

4501

Publication Date

2002

Abstract

The mixing of an impurity into a flowing fluid is an important process in many areas of science, including geophysical processes, chemical reactors, and microfluidic devices. In some cases, for example periodic flows, the concepts of nonlinear dynamics provide a deep theoretical basis for understanding mixing. Unfortunately, the building blocks of this theory, i.e. the fixed points and invariant manifolds of the associated Poincaré map, have remained inaccessible to direct experimental study, thus limiting the insight that could be obtained. Using precision measurements of tracer particle trajectories in a two-dimensional fluid flow producing chaotic mixing, we directly measure the time-dependent stretching fields. These quantities, previously available only numerically, attain local maxima along lines coinciding with the stable and unstable manifolds, thus revealing the dynamical structures that control mixing. Contours or level sets of a passive impurity field are found to be aligned parallel to the lines of large stretching at each instant, thus explaining what happens as one stirs milk into coffee. --author-supplied description

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