Indexed on: 15 Oct '08Published on: 15 Oct '08Published in: Physical review. E, Statistical, nonlinear, and soft matter physics
An interesting question in turbulent convection is how the heat transport depends on the strength of thermal forcing in the limit of very large thermal forcing. Kraichnan predicted [Phys. Fluids 5, 1374 (1962)] that for fluids with low Prandtl number (Pr), the heat transport measured by the Nusselt number (Nu) would depend on the strength of thermal forcing measured by the Rayleigh number (Ra) as Nu approximately Ra(1/2) with logarithmic corrections at very high Ra. According to Kraichnan, the shear boundary layers play a crucial role in giving rise to this so-called ultimate-state scaling. A similar scaling result is predicted by the Grossmann-Lohse theory [J. Fluid Mech. 407, 27 (2000)], but with the assumption that the ultimate state is a bulk-dominated state in which both the average kinetic and thermal dissipation rates are dominated by contributions from the bulk of the flow with the boundary layers either broken down or playing no role in the heat transport. In this paper, we study the dependence of Nu and the Reynolds number (Re) measuring the root-mean-squared velocity fluctuations on Ra and Pr, for low Pr, using a shell model for homogeneous turbulent convection where buoyancy is acting directly on most of the scales. We find that Nu approximately Ra(1/2)Pr(1/2) and Re approximately Ra(1/2)Pr(-1/2) , which resemble the ultimate-state scaling behavior for fluids with low Pr, and show that the presence of a drag acting on the large scales is crucial in giving rise to such scaling. As a large-scale drag cannot exist by itself in the bulk of turbulent thermal convection, our results indicate that if buoyancy acts on most of the scales in the bulk of turbulent convection at very high Ra, then the ultimate state cannot be bulk dominated.