Tracking coherent structures in massively-separated and turbulent flows

Matthew Rockwood, Yangzi Huang, Melissa Green

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

13 Scopus citations


Coherent vortex structures are tracked in simulations of massively-separated and turbulent flows. Topological Lagrangian saddle points are found using intersections of the positive and negative finite-time Lyapunov exponent ridges, and these points are then followed in order to track individual coherent structure motion both in a complex interacting three-dimensional flow (turbulent channel) and during vortex formation (two-dimensional bluff body shedding). For a simulation of wall-bounded turbulence in a channel flow, tracking Lagrangian saddles shows that the average structure convection speed exhibits a similar trend as a previously published result based on velocity and pressure correlations, giving validity to the method. When this tracking method is applied in a study of a circular cylinder in cross-flow it shows that Lagrangian saddles rapidly accelerate away from the cylinder surface as the vortex sheds. This saddle behavior is compared with the time-resolved static pressure distribution on the circular cylinder, yielding locations on a cylinder surface where common sensors could detect this phenomenon, which is not available from force measurements or vortex circulation calculations. The current method of tracking coherent structures yields insight into the behavior of the coherent structures in both of the diverse flows presented, highlighting the breadth of its potential application.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Article number014702
JournalPhysical Review Fluids
Issue number1
StatePublished - Jan 2018

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Computational Mechanics
  • Modeling and Simulation
  • Fluid Flow and Transfer Processes


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