Predictive Model for Wall-Bounded Turbulent Flow

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Science  09 Jul 2010:
Vol. 329, Issue 5988, pp. 193-196
DOI: 10.1126/science.1188765

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Elucidating Turbulent Flow

When needing to mix two fluids rapidly, turbulent flow can be beneficial. However, in most cases, the churning and tumbling motions of a fluid during turbulent flow reduce the efficiency of a device or process. When fluid flows past a solid object, the bulk of the turbulent motion is concentrated at the surface boundary, but it is unclear to what extent these inner motions are influenced by flow far from the boundary. Marusic et al. (p. 193; see the Perspective by Adrian) demonstrate a nonlinear connection between inner-layer motions and the large-scale outer-layer motions in wind tunnel experiments. A simple model was able to describe the relationship mathematically while accurately mapping the experimental data.


The behavior of turbulent fluid motion, particularly in the thin chaotic fluid layers immediately adjacent to solid boundaries, can be difficult to understand or predict. These layers account for up to 50% of the aerodynamic drag on modern airliners and occupy the first 100 meters or so of the atmosphere, thus governing wider meteorological phenomena. The physics of these layers is such that the most important processes occur very close to the solid boundary—the region where accurate measurements and simulations are most challenging. We propose a mathematical model to predict the near-wall turbulence given only large-scale information from the outer boundary layer region. This predictive capability may enable new strategies for the control of turbulence and may provide a basis for improved engineering and weather prediction simulations.

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