Mechanisms of instability in Rayleigh-Bénard convection
Perkins, Adam Christopher
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In many systems, instabilities can lead to time-dependent behavior, and instabilities can act as mechanisms for sustained chaos; an understanding of the dynamical modes governing instability is thus essential for prediction and/or control in such systems. In this thesis work, we have developed an approach toward characterizing instabilities quantitatively, from experiments on the prototypical Rayleigh-Bénard convection system. We developed an experimental technique for preparing a given convection pattern using rapid optical actuation of pressurized SF6, a greenhouse gas. Real-time analysis of convection patterns was developed as part of the implementation of closed-loop control of straight roll patterns. Feedback control of the patterns via actuation was used to guide patterns to various system instabilities. Controlled, spatially localized perturbations were applied to the prepared states, which were observed to excite the dominant system modes. We extracted the spatial structure and growth rates of these modes from analysis of the pattern evolutions. The lifetimes of excitations were also measured, near a particular instability; a critical wavenumber was found from the observed dynamical slowing near the bifurcation. We will also describe preliminary results of using a state estimation algorithm (LETKF) on experimentally prepared non-periodic patterns in a cylindrical convection cell.