Eliminating Turbulence in Spatially Intermittent Flows

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Science  19 Mar 2010:
Vol. 327, Issue 5972, pp. 1491-1494
DOI: 10.1126/science.1186091

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Flows through pipes and channels are the most common means to transport fluids in practical applications and equally occur in numerous natural systems. In general, the transfer of fluids is energetically far more efficient if the motion is smooth and laminar because the friction losses are lower. However, even at moderate velocities pipe and channel flows are sensitive to minute disturbances, and in practice most flows are turbulent. Investigating the motion and spatial distribution of vortices, we uncovered an amplification mechanism that constantly feeds energy from the mean shear into turbulent eddies. At intermediate flow rates, a simple control mechanism suffices to intercept this energy transfer by reducing inflection points in the velocity profile. When activated, an immediate collapse of turbulence is observed, and the flow relaminarizes.

  • Present address: LaVision GmbH, 37081 Göttingen, Germany.

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