How the turbulent/non-turbulent interface is different from internal turbulence

G. E. Elsinga, C. B. Da Silva

Research output: Contribution to journalArticleScientificpeer-review

8 Citations (Scopus)
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The average patterns of the velocity and scalar fields near turbulent/non-turbulent interfaces (TNTI), obtained from direct numerical simulations (DNS) of planar turbulent jets and shear free turbulence, are assessed in the strain eigenframe. These flow patterns help to clarify many aspects of the flow dynamics, including a passive scalar, near a TNTI layer, that are otherwise not easily and clearly assessed. The averaged flow field near the TNTI layer exhibits a saddle-node flow topology associated with a vortex in one half of the interface, while the other half of the interface consists of a shear layer. This observed flow pattern is thus very different from the shear-layer structure consisting of two aligned vortical motions bounded by two large-scale regions of uniform flow, that typically characterizes the average strain field in the fully developed turbulent regions. Moreover, strain dominates over vorticity near the TNTI layer, in contrast to internal turbulence. Consequently, the most compressive principal straining direction is perpendicular to the TNTI layer, and the characteristic 45-degree angle displayed in internal shear layers is not observed at the TNTI layer. The particular flow pattern observed near the TNTI layer has important consequences for the dynamics of a passive scalar field, and explains why regions of particularly high scalar gradient (magnitude) are typically found at TNTIs separating fluid with different levels of scalar concentration. Finally, it is demonstrated that, within the fully developed internal turbulent region, the scalar gradient exhibits an angle with the most compressive straining direction with a peak probability at around 20. The scalar gradient and the most compressive strain are not preferentially aligned, as has been considered for many years. The misconception originated from an ambiguous definition of the positive directions of the strain eigenvectors.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)216-238
JournalJournal of Fluid Mechanics
Publication statusPublished - 2019


  • intermittency
  • turbulent mixing

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