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An optimal path to transition in a duct. (English) Zbl 1221.76094
Summary: This paper is concerned with the transition of the laminar flow in a duct of square cross section. As in the similar case of pipe flow, the motion is linearly stable for all Reynolds numbers, rendering this flow a suitable candidate for a study of the ‘bypass’ path to turbulence. It has already been shown that the classical linear optimal perturbation problem, yielding optimal disturbances in the form of longitudinal vortices, fails to provide an ‘optimal’ path to turbulence, i.e. optimal perturbations do not elicit a significant nonlinear response from the flow. Previous simulations have also indicated that a pair of travelling waves generates immediately, by nonlinear quadratic interactions, an unstable mean flow distortion, responsible for rapid breakdown. By the use of functions quantifying the sensitivity of the motion to deviations in the base flow, the optimal travelling wave associated with its specific defect is found by a variational approach. This optimal solution is then integrated in time and shown to display a qualitative similarity to the so-called ‘minimal defect’, for the same parameters. Finally, numerical simulations of an ‘edge state’ are conducted, to identify an unstable solution that mediates laminar-turbulent transition and relate it to results of the optimization procedure.

MSC:
76F06 Transition to turbulence
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