Dendrites of Convection

Dendrites are most commonly seen in crystal growth; the most familiar example being the tips of the six points on a snowflake. Here we see dendritic growth of the convective flow state of a fluid into the no flow state. The very dark, parabolic tip region is where the fluid, in this case a nematic liquid crystal, is flowing in the direction perpendicular to the page. We are able to see this pattern for the same reason we can "see" heat rising off pavement on a hot day; the flow causes a variation in the speed of light as it traverses the fluid, and this causes focussing and defocussing of light rays.

J. T. Gleeson
The University of Calgary
Category 2 (Open)

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