Self-induced cyclic reorganization of free bodies through thermal convection

Bin Liu, Jun Zhang

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


We investigate the dynamics of a thermally convecting fluid as it interacts with freely moving solid objects. This is a previously unexplored paradigm of interactions between many free bodies mediated by thermal convection, which gives rise to surprising robust oscillations between different large-scale circulations. Once begun, this process repeats cyclically, with the collection of objects (solid spheres) entrained and packed from one side of the convection cell to the other. The cyclic frequency is highest when the spheres occupy about half of the cell bottom and their size coincides with the thickness of the thermal boundary layer. Our work shows that a deformable mass stimulates a thermally convecting fluid into oscillation, a collective behavior that may be found in nature.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Article number244501
JournalPhysical Review Letters
Issue number24
StatePublished - Jun 16 2008

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • General Physics and Astronomy


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