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Saffman-Taylor in Color

Unveil Date

October 28, 2022

Current Artwork Location

Myhal Centre for Engineering Innovation and Entrepreneurship, University of Toronto


Dr. Ben Hatton


Castor Oil, Glycerol, Water, Food Coloring

Equipment Used

Hele-Shaw Cell (Designed by Charlie Katrycz), Nikon 5600 Digital Camera, Digital Injection Pump, Lighting, Acrylic Stand (Designed by Ross J. Cocks)


213.4 x 213.4 cm (7.0' x 7.0')

In 2022, Ross J. Cocks worked in the research lab of Professor Ben Hatton in the Department of Materials Science & Engineering (MSE), at the University of Toronto. This afforded him the chance to learn how to use an original Hele-Shaw Cell setup designed by Charlie Katrycz. The Hele-Shaw Cell is a commonly used experimental setup to examine a phenomenon known as, Saffman-Taylor instability. In fluid dynamics, a Saffman-Taylor instability causes the formation of self-organized, tentacle-like patterns at the interface between two fluids of differing viscosities.

“Saffman-Taylor in Color” is a collection of captured moments of fluid injections performed by Ross within a Hele-Shaw Cell. Arranged mathematically, the piece exhibits a narrative of how temperature (green), viscosity (yellow), injection rate (blue), and time (red) all play a role in the morphology of the resulting patterns in a Saffman-Taylor instability. While the piece is a visual ode to this incredible and useful phenomenon, it is also a study of the interconnectedness of form, color, and light.

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