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Mobile and impeding boundaries in thermal convection

By Jun Zhang, NYU and NYU Shanghai

Thermal convection is ubiquitous in nature. It spans from a small cup of tea to the internal dynamics of the earth. In this talk, I will discuss a few experiments where boundaries to the fluid play surprising roles in changing the behaviors of a classical Rayleigh-Bénard convection system. In one, mobile boundaries lead to regular large-scale oscillations that involve the entire system. This could be related to the continental kinetics on earth over the past two billion years, as super-continents formed and broke apart in cyclic fashion. In another experiment, we found that seemingly impeding partitions in thermal convection can boost the overall heat transport by several folds, once the partitions are properly arranged, thanks to an unexpected symmetry-breaking bifurcation.