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Viscoelastic Suppression of Gravity-Driven Counterflow Instability

P. Beiersdorfer, D. Layne, E. W. Magee, and J. I. Katz
Phys. Rev. Lett. 106, 058301 – Published 31 January 2011
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Abstract

Attempts to achieve “top kill” of flowing oil wells by pumping dense drilling “muds,” i.e., slurries of dense minerals, from above will fail if the Kelvin-Helmholtz instability in the gravity-driven counterflow produces turbulence that breaks up the denser fluid into small droplets. Here we estimate the droplet size to be submillimeter for fast flows and suggest the addition of a shear-thickening or viscoelastic polymer to suppress turbulence. We find in laboratory experiments a variety of new physical effects for a viscoelastic shear-thickening liquid in a gravity-driven counterstreaming flow. There is a progression from droplet formation to complete turbulence suppression at the relevant high velocities. Thick descending columns show a viscoelastic analogue of the viscous buckling instability. Thinner streams form structures resembling globules on a looping filament.

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  • Received 26 August 2010

DOI:https://doi.org/10.1103/PhysRevLett.106.058301

This article is available under the terms of the Creative Commons Attribution 3.0 License. Further distribution of this work must maintain attribution to the author(s) and the published article’s title, journal citation, and DOI.

© 2011 The American Physical Society

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Complex fluids at work

Published 31 January 2011

Researchers show how the judicious choice of fluid filler can suppress the turbulent flow that severely hinders the “top-kill” plugging of a blown-out oil well.

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Authors & Affiliations

P. Beiersdorfer, D. Layne, and E. W. Magee

  • Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory, Livermore, California 94550, USA

J. I. Katz*

  • Department of Physics and McDonnell Center for the Space Sciences, Washington University, St. Louis, Missouri 63130, USA

  • *Also at Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory, Livermore, CA 94550, USA. katz@wuphys.wustl.edu

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Issue

Vol. 106, Iss. 5 — 4 February 2011

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