We investigate the miscible Rayleigh-Taylor (RT) instability in both two and three dimensions using direct numerical simulations, where the working fluid is assumed incompressible under the Boussinesq approximation. We first consider the case of randomly perturbed interfaces. With a variety of diagnostics, we develop a physical picture for the detailed temporal development of the mixed layer: we identify three distinct evolutionary phases in this development, which can be related to detailed variations in the growth of the mixing zone. Our analysis provides an explanation for the observed differences between two- and three-dimeional RT instability. The analysis also leads us to concentrate on the RT models which (i) work equally well for both laminar and turbulent flows, and (ii) do not depend on turbulent scaling within the mixing layer between fluids. These candidate RT models are based on point sources within bubbles (or plumes) and their interaction with each other (or the background flow). With this motivation, we examine the evolution of single plumes, and relate our numerical results (for single plumes) to a simple analytical model for plume evolution.
The main part of this dissertation is published in the Journal of Fluid Mechanics (2001), vol. 447, pp. 377-408, Cambridge University Press.