Large-scale modes of turbulent channel flow: Transport and structure

Z. Liu, R. J. Adrian, T. J. Hanratty

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

188 Scopus citations


Turbulent flow in a rectangular channel is investigated to determine the scale and pattern of the eddies that contribute most to the total turbulent kinetic energy and the Reynolds shear stress. Instantaneous, two-dimensional particle image velocimeter measurements in the streamwise-wall-normal plane at Reynolds numbers Reh = 5378 and 29 935 are used to form two-point spatial correlation functions, from which the proper orthogonal modes are determined. Large-scale motions - having length scales of the order of the channel width and represented by a small set of low-order eigenmodes-contain a large fraction of the kinetic energy of the streamwise velocity component and a small fraction of the kinetic energy of the wall-normal velocities. Surprisingly, the set of large-scale modes that contains half of the total turbulent kinetic energy in the channel, also contains two-thirds to three-quarters of the total Reynolds shear stress in the outer region. Thus, it is the large-scale motions, rather than the main turbulent motions, that dominate turbulent transport in all parts of the channel except the buffer layer. Samples of the large-scale structures associated with the dominant eigenfunctions are found by projecting individual realizations onto the dominant modes. In the streamwise wall-normal plane their patterns often consist of an inclined region of second quadrant vectors separated from an upstream region of fourth quadrant vectors by a stagnation point/shear layer. The inclined Q4/shear layer/Q2 region of the largest motions extends beyond the centreline of the channel and lies under a region of fluid that rotates about the spanwise direction. This pattern is very similar to the signature of a hairpin vortex. Reynolds number similarity of the large structures is demonstrated, approximately, by comparing the two-dimensional correlation coefficients and the eigenvalues of the different modes at the two Reynolds numbers.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)53-80
Number of pages28
Journaljournal of fluid mechanics
StatePublished - Dec 10 2001
Externally publishedYes

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Condensed Matter Physics
  • Mechanics of Materials
  • Mechanical Engineering


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