The dynamics of initially vertical A+B?C reaction fronts propagating in covered horizontal solution layers can be influenced by buoyancy-driven convection. Experiments have provided evidence that a much faster propagation of the front occurs in solutions than that predicted by reaction-diffusion (RD) theories, thereby suggesting the influence of convective effects arising if A, B, and C have different densities. Here we analyze numerically and theoretically the dynamics resulting from the coupling of a simple A+B?C chemical reaction with diffusion and convection induced by density differences across the reaction front. The important parameters of the related reaction-diffusion-convection (RDC) model are the three dimensionless Rayleigh numbers, quantifying the contribution of each species concentration to the density of the solution, the layer thickness, and the initial reactant concentration ratio. The presence of buoyancy-driven convection at the front induces a propagation of this front even in the case of equal diffusion coefficients and equal initial reactant concentrations for which RD theories predict a non-moving front. In the case of equal initial concentrations, even in the presence of convection, the classification of the various possible dynamics and the prediction of the direction of front propagation can be obtained from simple criteria on the Rayleigh numbers. In the case of different initial reactant concentrations for which, in the absence of convection, the RD front propagates towards the side of the less concentrated reactant, the introduction of buoyancy convection not only invalidates the long time RD scalings but can lead to a double reversal in the direction of propagation of the reaction front for intermediate times. The influence of the different parameters on the RDC dynamics is presented.
Bibliographical noteCopyright © 2009 Elsevier Ltd.
L.R. is supported by a BAEF fellowship and PMJT by a Prodex contract. A.D. acknowledges financial support from Prodex (Belgium), FNRS and from the “Communauté française de Belgique” (“Actions de Recherches Concertées” program).