We report an experimental study of a new type of turbulent flow that is driven purely by buoyancy. The flow is due to an unstable density difference, created using brine and water, across the ends of a long (length/diameter=9) vertical pipe. The Schmidt number Sc is 670, and the Rayleigh number (Ra) based on the density gradient and diameter is about 108. Under these conditions the convection is turbulent, and the time-averaged velocity at any point is ‘zero’. The Reynolds number based on the Taylor microscale, Reλ, is about 65. The pipe is long enough for there to be an axially homogeneous region, with a linear density gradient, about 6–7 diameters long in the midlength of the pipe. In the absence of a mean flow and, therefore, mean shear, turbulence is sustained just by buoyancy. The flow can be thus considered to be an axially homogeneous turbulent natural convection driven by a constant (unstable) density gradient. We characterize the flow using flow visualization and particle image velocimetry (PIV). Measurements show that the mean velocities and the Reynolds shear stresses are zero across the cross-section; the root mean squared (r.m.s.) of the vertical velocity is larger than those of the lateral velocities (by about one and half times at the pipe axis). We identify some features of the turbulent flow using velocity correlation maps and the probability density functions of velocities and velocity differences. The flow away from the wall, affected mainly by buoyancy, consists of vertically moving fluid masses continually colliding and interacting, while the flow near the wall appears similar to that in wall-bound shear-free turbulence. The turbulence is anisotropic, with the anisotropy increasing to large values as the wall is approached. A mixing length model with the diameter of the pipe as the length scale predicts well the scalings for velocity fluctuations and the flux. This model implies that the Nusselt number would scale as Ra1/2Sc1/2, and the Reynolds number would scale as Ra1/2Sc−1/2. The velocity and the flux measurements appear to be consistent with the Ra1/2 scaling, although it must be pointed out that the Rayleigh number range was less than 10. The Schmidt number was not varied to check the Sc scaling. The fluxes and the Reynolds numbers obtained in the present configuration are much higher compared to what would be obtained in Rayleigh–Bénard (R–B) convection for similar density differences.
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