A universal feature of rotational flows is the tendency to form coherent structures known as vortices. Vortex dynamics plays an essential role in the evolution of turbulent flows as a mechanism by which turbulent energy is transferred to smaller scales. Vortex dynamics also governs the transport of mass, momentum, and energy in vortex-dominated flows, such as bluff-body wakes. Despite the canonical nature of the subject, there are still many open questions related to how vortices evolve and interact with other vortices and surrounding structures.
The Araya Lab is presently focused on understanding the dynamics of vortex columns, surfaces that are everywhere parallel to the local vorticity vector. In particular, we are interested in how specific column characteristics, such as its topology, affect its dynamics and interactions with other vortices. We use carefully crafted experiments in water to study the spatio-temporal evolution of single and pairs of vortex columns. In addition to gaining physical insight into this canonical flow, our work also aims to develop methods to simplify the analysis of vortex dynamics when large data sets are required to fully characterize the flow.