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Journal of Fluid Mechanics

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Fluid dynamics, Fluid mechanics, Capillarity


Experimental results from the Interface Configuration Experiment (ICE) performed aboard the Space Shuttle and the Mir Space Station are reported. The experiment concerns fluid interfaces in certain ‘exotic’ containers in a low-gravity environment. These containers are rotationally symmetric and have the property that for given contact angle and liquid volume, a continuum of distinct rotationally symmetric equilibrium configurations can appear, all of which have the same mechanical energy. These symmetric equilibrium configurations are unstable, in that deformations that are not rotationally symmetric can be shown mathematically to yield configurations with lower energy. It is found experimentally, in confirmation of mathematical results and of numerical computations, that distinct locally stable configurations can form that are not rotationally symmetric and have differing dynamic characteristics. It is found that this intriguing phenomenon of asymmetric local energy minimizers can occur even if conditions for an exotic container are not entirely met.


This is the publisher's final pdf. Originally published in Journal of Fluid Mechanics ( and is copyrighted by Cambridge University Press 1999.



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