We study experimentally and theoretically the downward vertical displacement of one miscible fluid by another lighter one in the gap of a Hele-Shaw cell at sufficiently high velocities for diffusive effects to be negligible. Under certain conditions on the viscosity ratio, M, and the normalized flow rate, U, this results in the formation of a two-dimensional tongue of the injected fluid, which is symmetric with respect to the midplane. Thresholds in flow rate and viscosity ratio exist above which the two- dimensional flow destabilizes, giving rise to a three-dimensional pattern. We describe in detail the two-dimensional regime using a kinematic wave theory similar to Yang & Yortsos (1997) and we delineate in the (M, U)-plane three different domains, characterized respectively by the absence of a shock, the presence of an internal shock and the presence of a frontal shock. Theoretical and experimental results are compared and found to be in good agreement for the first two domains, but not for the third domain, where the frontal shock is not of the contact type. An analogous treatment is also applied to the case of axisymmetric displacement in a cylindrical tube.
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