Thermal effects on the diffusive layer convection instability of an exothermic acid-base reaction front

Christophe Almarcha, Philip Trevelyan, Patrick Grosfils, Anne De Wit

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A buoyancy-driven hydrodynamic instability appearing when an aqueous acid solution of HCl overlies a denser alkaline aqueous solution of NaOH in a vertically oriented Hele-Shaw cell is studied both experimentally and theoretically. The peculiarity of this reactive convection pattern is its asymmetry with regard to the initial contact line between the two solutions as convective plumes develop in the acidic solution only. We investigate here by a linear stability analysis (LSA) of a reaction-diffusion-convection model of a simple A + B → C reaction the relative role of solutal versus thermal effects in the origin and location of this instability. We show that heat effects are much weaker than concentration-related ones such that the heat of reaction only plays a minor role on the dynamics. Computation of density profiles and of the stability analysis eigenfunctions confirm that the convective motions result from a diffusive layer convection mechanism whereby a locally unstable density stratification develops in the upper acidic layer because of the difference in the diffusion coefficients of the chemical species. The growth rate and wavelength of the pattern are determined experimentally as a function of the Brinkman parameter of the problem and compare favorably with the theoretical predictions of both LSA and nonlinear simulations.
Original languageEnglish
Article number033009
Number of pages10
JournalPhysical Review E - Statistical, Nonlinear, and Soft Matter Physics
Publication statusPublished - 17 Sept 2013


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