Flow bifurcations in a thin gap between two rotating spheres

Ruey-Jen Yang, W. J. Luo

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

21 Citations (Scopus)


This paper presents the use of a parameter continuation method and a test function to solve the steady, axisymmetric incompressible Navier-Stokes equations for spherical Couette flow in a thin gap between two concentric, differentially rotating spheres. The study focuses principally on the prediction of multiple steady flow patterns and the construction of bifurcation diagrams. Linear stability analysis is conducted to determine whether or not the computed steady flow solutions are stable. In the case of a rotating inner sphere and a stationary outer sphere, a new unstable solution branch with two asymmetric vortex pairs is identified near the point of a symmetry-breaking pitchfork bifurcation which occurs at a Reynolds number equal to 789. This solution transforms smoothly into an unstable asymmetric 1-vortex solution as the Reynolds number increases. Another new pair of unstable 2-vortex flow modes whose solution branches are unconnected to previously known branches is calculated by the present two-parameter continuation method. In the case of two rotating spheres, the range of existence in the (Re1, Re2) plane of the one and two vortex states, the vortex sizes as a function of both Reynolds numbers are identified. Bifurcation theory is used to discuss the origin of the calculated flow modes. Parameter continuation indicates that the stable states are accompanied by certain unstable states.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)115-131
Number of pages17
JournalTheoretical and Computational Fluid Dynamics
Issue number2
Publication statusPublished - 2002 Dec 1

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • Computational Mechanics
  • Condensed Matter Physics
  • Engineering(all)
  • Fluid Flow and Transfer Processes


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