The mechanism of vortex instability in electromagnetically driven flow in an annular thin layer of electrolyte
A circumferential flow of a conducting fluid in an annular channel can be created by the action of a Lorentz force arising as a result of the interaction between an applied vertical magnetic field and a radial electric current flowing through the electrolyte. Quite unexpectedly, experiments revealed that a robust vortex system appears near the outer cylindrical wall in such flows. McCloughan and Suslov (J. Fluid Mech. 887:A23, 2020) (McCS) reported comprehensive linear stability results of such a flow for variable Lorentz forcing. Here we complement that study by investigating the flow structure as a function of the channel aspect ratio. Remarkably, despite the completely different physical nature of parametric dependences, dynamic in McCS and purely geometric here, we show that in both scenarios vortices appear on a background of a steady axisymmetric flow at the boundary between two counter-rotating toroidal structures and have a similar energy distributions. The two studies demonstrate the robustness of the mechanism responsible for the vortex formation: Rayleigh's inviscid centrifugal instability aided by radial shear in the boundary layer near the outer cylindrical wall.
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