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Investigations of Incompressible Variable-Density Turbulence in an External Acceleration Field


Gat, Ilana Batya (2018) Investigations of Incompressible Variable-Density Turbulence in an External Acceleration Field. Dissertation (Ph.D.), California Institute of Technology. doi:10.7907/Z9JM27V7.


Of interest to turbulence modeling is the behavior of variable-density flow at high Reynolds numbers - a flow difficult to model. This thesis provides insight into variable-density flow behavior by examining the dynamics and mixing of variable-density turbulence subject to an externally imposed acceleration field. The flow is studied in the zero-Mach-number limit with a series of direct numerical simulations. The flow configuration consists of alternating slabs of high- and low-density fluid in a triply periodic domain. Density ratios in the range of 1.005 to 10 are investigated. The flow produces temporally evolving shear layers.

A perpendicular mean density–pressure gradient is maintained as the flow evolves, with multi-scale baroclinic torques generated in the turbulent flow that ensues. For all density ratios studied, the simulations attain Reynolds numbers at the beginning of the fully developed turbulence regime.

An empirical relation for the convection velocity predicts the observed entrainment-ratio and dominant mixed-fluid composition statistics. Two mixing-layer temporal evolution regimes are identified: an initial diffusion-dominated regime with a growth rate with the square-root of time followed by a turbulence-dominated regime with a cubic growth rate in time. In the turbulent regime, composition probability density functions within the shear layers exhibit a slightly tilted ('non-marching') hump, corresponding to the most probable mole fraction. The shear layers preferentially entrain low-density fluid by volume at all density ratios, which is reflected in the mixed-fluid composition.

The mixed-fluid orientations of vorticity, baroclinic torques, density gradients, and pressure gradients are presented. Baroclinic torques, the cross product of the density and pressure gradients, tend to be aligned with positive or negative vorticity direction, with vorticity preferentially aligning with the intermediate eigenvector of the local strain-rate tensor, with some variance.

Item Type:Thesis (Dissertation (Ph.D.))
Subject Keywords:variable-density turbulence; cubic shear-layer growth; non-marching pdf; vorticity alignment; baroclinic torque alignment; density gradient alignment; pressure gradient alignment
Degree Grantor:California Institute of Technology
Division:Engineering and Applied Science
Major Option:Aeronautics
Awards:Ernest E. Sechler Memorial Award in Aeronautics, 2017. Charles D. Babcock Award, 2015.
Thesis Availability:Public (worldwide access)
Research Advisor(s):
  • Dimotakis, Paul E.
Thesis Committee:
  • Meiron, Daniel I. (chair)
  • Dimotakis, Paul E.
  • Matheou, Georgios
  • McKeon, Beverley J.
  • Pullin, Dale Ian
Defense Date:14 November 2017
Funding AgencyGrant Number
Department of EnergyDE-NA0002382
NSF Graduate Research Fellowship ProgramDGE-1144469
Air Force Office of Scientific ResearchFA9550-12-1-0461
Record Number:CaltechTHESIS:12052017-154614667
Persistent URL:
Related URLs:
URLURL TypeDescription adapted in chapters 2, 3, 4, and 6, and appendices A and B adapted in chapters 3, 4
Gat, Ilana Batya0000-0003-0223-0507
Default Usage Policy:No commercial reproduction, distribution, display or performance rights in this work are provided.
ID Code:10586
Deposited By: Ilana Gat
Deposited On:12 Dec 2017 19:24
Last Modified:04 Oct 2019 00:19

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