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    Mean dynamics of transitional channel flow
    Elsnab, J ; Klewicki, J ; Maynes, D ; Ameel, T (CAMBRIDGE UNIV PRESS, 2011-07-01)
    The redistribution of mean momentum and vorticity, along with the mechanisms underlying these redistribution processes, is explored for post-laminar flow in fully developed, pressure driven, channel flow. These flows, generically referred to as transitional, include an instability stage and a nonlinear development stage. The central focus is on the nonlinear development stage. The present analyses use existing direct numerical simulation data sets, as well as recently reported high-resolution molecular tagging velocimetry measurements. Primary considerations stem from the emergence of the effects of turbulent inertia as represented by the Reynolds stress gradient in the mean differential statement of dynamics. The results describe the flow evolution following the formation of a non-zero Reynolds stress peak that is known to first arise near the critical layer of the most unstable disturbance. The positive and negative peaks in the Reynolds stress gradient profile are observed to undergo a relative movement toward both the wall and centreline for subsequent increases in Reynolds number. The Reynolds stress profiles are shown to almost immediately exhibit the same sequence of curvatures that exists in the fully turbulent regime. In the transitional regime, the outer inflection point in this profile physically indicates a localized zone within which the mean dynamics are dominated by inertia. These observations connect to recent theoretical findings for the fully turbulent regime, e.g. as described by Fife, Klewicki & Wei (J. Discrete Continuous Dyn. Syst., vol. 24, 2009, p. 781) and Klewicki, Fife & Wei (J. Fluid Mech., vol. 638, 2009, p. 73). In accord with momentum equation analyses at higher Reynolds number, the present observations provide evidence that a logarithmic mean velocity profile is most rapidly approximated on a sub-domain located between the zero in the Reynolds stress gradient (maximum in the Reynolds stress) and the outer region location of the maximal Reynolds stress gradient (inflection point in the Reynolds stress profile). Overall, the present findings provide evidence that the dynamical processes during the post-laminar regime and those operative in the high Reynolds number regime are connected and describable within a single theoretical framework.