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Reappraisal of the Kelvin–Helmholtz problem. Part 1. Hamiltonian structure

Benjamin, T. Brooke and Bridges, Thomas J. (1997) Reappraisal of the Kelvin–Helmholtz problem. Part 1. Hamiltonian structure Journal of Fluid Mechanics.


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This paper and Part 2 report various new insights into the classic Kelvin–Helmholtz problem which models the instability of a plane vortex sheet and the complicated motions arising therefrom. The full nonlinear version of the hydrodynamic problem is treated, with allowance for gravity and surface tension, and the account deals in precise fashion with several inherently peculiar properties of the mathematical model. The main achievement of the paper, presented in §3, is to demonstrate that the problem admits a canonical Hamiltonian formulation, which represents a novel variational definition of a functional representing perturbations in kinetic energy. The Hamiltonian structure thus revealed is then used to account systematically for relations between symmetries and conservation laws, and none of those examined appears to have been noticed before. In §4, a generalized, non-canonical Hamiltonian structure is shown to apply when the vortex sheet becomes folded, so requiring a parametric representation, as is well known to occur in the later stages of evolution from Kelvin–Helmholtz instability. Further invariant properties are demonstrated in this context. Finally, §5, the linearized version of the problem – reviewed briefly in §2.1 – is reappraised in the light of Hamiltonian structure, and it is shown how Kelvin–Helmholtz instability can be interpreted as the coincidence of wave modes characterized respectively by positive and negative values of the Hamiltonian functional representing perturbations in total energy.

Item Type: Article
Divisions : Faculty of Engineering and Physical Sciences > Mathematics
Authors :
Benjamin, T. Brooke
Bridges, Thomas
Date : 1 February 1997
Additional Information : Published in the Journal of Fluid Mechanics (1997), 333:301-325. Cambridge University Press. Copyright © 1997 Cambridge University Press. Reprinted with permission. Click here to visit the journal website.
Depositing User : Mr Adam Field
Date Deposited : 27 May 2010 14:41
Last Modified : 16 Jan 2019 16:22

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