For fluid flow one has a well-accepted mathematical model: the Navier-Stokes equations. Why, then, is the problem of turbulence so intractable? One major difficulty is that the equations appear insoluble in any reasonable sense. (A direct numerical simulation certainly yields a “solution”, but it provides little understanding of the process per se .) However, three developments are beginning to bear fruit: (1) The discovery, by experimental fluid mechanicians, of coherent structures in certain fully developed turbulent flows; (2) the suggestion, by Ruelle, Takens and others, that strange attractors and other ideas from dynamical systems theory might play a role in the analysis of the governing equations, and (3) the introduction of the statistical technique of Karhunen-Loève or proper orthogonal decomposition, by Lumley in the case of turbulence. Drawing on work on modeling the dynamics of coherent structures in turbulent flows done over the past ten years, and concentrating on the near-wall region of the fully developed boundary layer, we describe how these three threads can be drawn together to weave low-dimensional models which yield new qualitative understanding. We focus on low wave number phenomena of turbulence generation, appealing to simple, conventional modeling of inertial range transport and energy dissipation.
Physics Reports – Elsevier
Published: Aug 1, 1997
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