Indexed on: 16 Jul '13Published on: 16 Jul '13Published in: Physical review. E, Statistical, nonlinear, and soft matter physics
In pipe, channel, and boundary layer flows turbulence first occurs intermittently in space and time: at moderate Reynolds numbers domains of disordered turbulent motion are separated by quiescent laminar regions. Based on direct numerical simulations of pipe flow we argue here that the spatial intermittency has its origin in a nearest neighbor interaction between turbulent regions. We further show that in this regime turbulent flows are intrinsically intermittent with a well-defined equilibrium turbulent fraction but without ever assuming a steady pattern. This transition scenario is analogous to that found in simple models such as coupled map lattices. The scaling observed implies that laminar intermissions of the turbulent flow will persist to arbitrarily large Reynolds numbers.