Indexed on: 20 May '08Published on: 20 May '08Published in: Philosophical transactions. Series A, Mathematical, physical, and engineering sciences
Oscillatory flows occur naturally, with applications ranging across many disciplines from engineering to physiology. Transition to turbulence in such flows is a topic of practical interest and this article discusses some recent work that has furthered our understanding of the stability of a class of time-periodic fluid motions. Our study starts with an examination of the linear stability of a classical flat Stokes layer. Although experiments conducted over many years have demonstrated conclusively that this layer is unstable at a sufficiently large Reynolds number, it has only been relatively recently that rigorous theoretical confirmation of this behaviour has been obtained. The analysis and numerical calculations for the planar Stokes layer were subsequently extended to flows in channels and pipes and for the flow within a torsionally oscillating circular cylinder. We discuss why our predictions for the onset of instability in these geometries are in disappointingly poor agreement with experimental results. Finally, some suggestions for future experimental work are given and some areas for future theoretical analysis outlined.