Accurate numerical approximation of the absolute stability of unbounded flows

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The initial stage of the laminar–turbulent transition of semi-infinite flows can be characterized as either an absolute or convective instability, naturally associated with localized wave packets. A convective instability is directly linked to an absolute instability in a different reference frame. Therefore, our aim is to determine the absolute stability of a flow in a given but arbitrary reference frame, which can only be directly inferred from the absolute eigenvalue spectrum. If advective processes are present, the associated absolute eigenfunctions grow exponentially in space in the advective direction. The eigenvalue spectrum is usually computed numerically, which requires truncating the domain and prescribing artificial boundary conditions at these truncation boundaries. For separated boundary conditions, the resulting spectrum approaches the absolute spectrum as the domain length tends to infinity. Since advective processes result in spatially exponentially growing eigenfunctions, it becomes increasingly difficult to represent these functions numerically as the domain length increases. Hence, a naive numerical implementation of the eigenvalue problem may result in a computed spectrum that strongly deviates from the (mathematically correct) absolute spectrum due to numerical errors. To overcome these numerical inaccuracies, we employ a weighted method ensuring the convergence to the absolute spectrum. From a physical point of view, this method removes the advection-induced spatial exponential growth from the eigenfunctions. The resulting (absolute) spectrum allows for a direct interpretation of the character of the pertinent perturbations and the eigensolutions can be used to construct and analyse the evolution of localized wave packets in an efficient way.

Original languageEnglish
Article number132224
JournalPhysica D: Nonlinear Phenomena
Publication statusPublished - 15 Jan 2020


  • Absolute spectrum
  • Advection-diffusion equation
  • Numerical method
  • Streamwise BiGlobal stability problem
  • Symmetrization

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