Bounds on mixing in stratified shear flows

Friday, April 16, 2010 - 9:00am - 9:45am
EE/CS 3-180
Colm Caulfield (University of Cambridge)
Keywords: Turbulent mixing, Rigorous bounds, stratified shear flows

Abstract: Parameterizing the mixing of a stratified fluid subject to shear is a fundamental challenge for models of environmental and industrial flows. In particular, it is of great value to parameterize the efficiency of turbulent mixing, in the sense of the proportion of the kinetic energy converted into potential energy (through irreversible mixing of fluid of different density) compared to the total amount converted to both potential energy and internal energy (through viscous dissipation). Various competing models have been presented to relate the mixing efficiency to bulk properties of the flow, especially through different Richardson numbers, which quantify the relative importance of buoyancy and shear within the flow.
One promising approach is to construct rigorous bounds on the long-time average of the buoyancy flux (i.e. the mixing rate) within simple model stratified shear flows, imposing physically reasonable constraints on the model flow fields. In this talk, we apply this technique to stably stratified
Couette flow. By identifying the stratification which leads to maximal buoyancy flux, we make a prediction of what bulk stratification (as a function of the shear) is optimal for turbulent mixing. A previous attempt to do this failed due to an unexpected degeneracy in the variational problem. Here, we overcome this issue by parameterizing the variational problem implicitly with the overall mixing efficiency which is then optimized across to return a rigorous upper bound on the buoyancy flux. We discuss the implications of our results for various classical stratified shear turbulence models.

Joint work with W. Tang (Arizona State University) & R. R. Kerswell (University of Bristol).

MSC Code: