Growth morphology and symmetry selection of interfacial instabilities in anisotropic environments†
The displacement of a fluid by another less viscous one in a quasi-two dimensional geometry typically leads to complex fingering patterns. In an isotropic system, dense-branching growth arises, which is characterized by repeated tip-splitting of evolving fingers. When anisotropy is present in the interfacial dynamics, the growth morphology changes to dendritic growth characterized by regular structures. We introduce anisotropy by engraving a six-fold symmetric lattice of channels on a Hele-Shaw cell. We show that the morphology transition in miscible fluids depends not only on the previously reported degree of anisotropy set by the lattice topography, but also on the viscosity ratio between the two fluids, ηin/ηout. Remarkably, ηin/ηout and the degree of anisotropy also govern the global features of the dendritic patterns, inducing a systematic change from six-fold towards twelve-fold symmetric dendrites. Varying either control parameter provides a new method to tune the symmetry of complex patterns, which may also have relevance for analogous phenomena of gradient-driven interfacial dynamics, such as directional solidification or electrodeposition.