Low-dimensional models for turbulent plane Couette flow in a minimal flow unit.

*(English)*Zbl 1108.76031Summary: We model turbulent plane Couette flow in the minimal flow unit (MFU) – a domain whose spanwise and streamwise extent is just sufficient to maintain turbulence – by expanding the velocity field as a sum of optimal modes calculated via proper orthogonal decomposition from numerical data. Ordinary differential equations are obtained by Galerkin projection of the Navier-Stokes equations onto these modes. We first consider a 6-mode (11-dimensional) model and study the effects of including losses to neglected modes. Ignoring these, the model reproduces turbulent statistics acceptably, but fails to reproduce dynamics; including them, we find a stable periodic orbit that captures the regeneration cycle dynamics and agrees well with direct numerical simulations. However, restriction to as few as six modes artificially constrains the relative magnitudes of streamwise vortices and streaks and so cannot reproduce stability of the laminar state or properly account for bifurcations to turbulence as Reynolds number increases. To address this issue, we develop a second class of models based on ‘uncoupled’ eigenfunctions that allow independence among streamwise and cross-stream velocity components. A 9-mode (31-dimensional) model produces bifurcation diagrams for steady and periodic states in qualitative agreement with numerical Navier-Stokes solutions, while preserving the regeneration cycle dynamics. Together, the models provide empirical evidence that the ‘backbone’ for MFU turbulence is a periodic orbit, and support the roll-streak-breakdown-roll reformation picture of shear-driven turbulence.