Published online by Cambridge University Press: 26 April 2006
A theoretical and experimental investigation of drop motion in rotating fluids is presented. The theory describing the vertical on-axis translation of an axisymmetric rigid body through a rapidly rotating low-viscosity fluid is extended to the case of a buoyant deformable fluid drop of arbitrary viscosity. In the case that inertial and viscous effects are negligible within the bulk external flow, motions are constrained to be two-dimensional in compliance with the Taylor–Proudman theorem, and the rising drop is circumscribed by a Taylor column. Calculations for the drop shape and rise speed decouple, so that theoretical predictions for both are obtained analytically. Drop shapes are set by a balance between centrifugal and interfacial tension forces, and correspond to the family of prolate ellipsoids which would arise in the absence of drop translation. In the case of a drop rising through an unbounded fluid, the Taylor column is dissipated at a distance determined by the outer fluid viscosity, and the rise speed corresponds to that of an identically shaped rigid body. In the case of a drop rising through a sufficiently shallow plane layer of fluid, the Taylor column extends to the boundaries. In such bounded systems, the rise speed depends further on the fluid and drop viscosities, which together prescribe the efficiency of the Ekman transport over the drop and container surfaces.
A set of complementary experiments is also presented, which illustrate the effects of drop viscosity on steady drop motion in bounded rotating systems. The experimental results provide qualitative agreement with the theoretical predictions; in particular, the poloidal circulation observed inside low-viscosity drops is consistent with the presence of a double Ekman layer at the interface, and is opposite to that expected to arise in non-rotating systems. The steady rise speeds observed are larger than those predicted theoretically owing to the persistence of finite inertial effects.