Coherent structures - Reality and myth

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The nature and significance of large-scale coherent structures in turblent shear flows are addressed. A definition for the coherent structure is proposed and its implications discussed. The characteristic coherent structure properties are identified and the analytical and experimental constraints in the eduction of coherent structures are examined. Following a few comments on coherent motions in wall layers, the accumulated knowledge from a number of recent and ongoing coherent structure investigations in excited and unexcited free shear flows in the author's laboratory is reviewed. Also briefly addressed are effects of initial conditions, the role of coherent structures in jet noise production and broadband noise amplification, the feedback effect of coherent structures, the use of the Taylor hypothesis in coherent structure description, negative production, turbulence suppression via excitation, validity of the Reynolds number similarity hypothesis, etc. From the detailed quantitative results, a picture of the state of the art in coherent structure studies emerges. While coherent structures are highly interesting characteristic features of (perhaps all) turbulent shear flows, it is argued that their dynamical significance has been overemphasized. These are predominant only in their early stages of formation following instability, or in resonant situations and excited flows, or in regions adjacent to a wall of a turbulent boundary layer. The coherent Reynolds stress, vorticity, and production are comparable to (and not an order of magnitude larger than) the time-average Reynolds stress, vorticity, and production, respectively, in fully developed states of turbulent shear flows, where incoherent turbulence is also important and cannot be ignored. The concept and importance of coherent structures are here to stay; understanding and modeling of turbulent shear flows will be incomplete without them; but they are not all that matter in turbulent shear flows.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)2816-2850
Number of pages35
JournalPhysics of Fluids
Issue number10
StatePublished - 1983


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