New studies in vortex dynamics: Incompressible and compressible vortex reconnection, core dynamics, and coupling between large and small scales

Fazle Hussain, Davinder Virk, Mogens V. Melander

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

2 Scopus citations


Coherent structure dynamics in turbulent flows are explored by direct numerical simulations of the Navier-Stokes equations for idealized vortex configurations. For this purpose, two dynamically significant coherent structure interactions are examined: (i) incompressible and compressible vortex reconnection and (ii) core dynamics (with and without superimposed small-scale turbulence). Reconnection is studied for two antiparallel vortex tubes at a Reynolds number (Re) of 103. Incompressible reconnection consists of three distinct phases: inviscid advection, bridging and threading. The key mechanism, bridging, involves the 'cutting' of vortex lines by viscous cross diffusion and their subsequent reconnection in front of the advancing vortex dipole. We conjecture that reconnection occurs in successive bursts and is a physical mechanism of cascade to smaller scales. Compressible reconnection is seen to be significantly affected by the choice of pressure and density initial conditions. We propose a polytropic initial condition which is consistent with experimental results and low-Mach number asymptotic theories. We also explain how compressibility initiates an early reconnection due to shocklet formation, but slows down the circulation transfer at late times. Thus, the reconnection timescale increases with increasing Mach number. Motivated by the important role of helical vortex lines in the reconnected vortices (bridges), we focus our attention on the dynamics of an axisymmetric vortex column with axial variation of core size. The resulting core dynamics is first explained via coupling between swirl and meridional flows. We then show that core dynamics can be better understood by applying a powerful analytical tool -helical wave decomposition - which extracts vorticity wave packets, thereby providing a simple explanation of the dynamics. The increase in core size variation with increasing Re in such a vortex demonstrates the limitation of the prevalent vortex filament models which assume constant core size. By studying the columnar vortex with superimposed small-scale, homogeneous, isotropic turbulence, we address the mutual interactions between large and small scales in turbulent flows. At its boundary the columnar vortex organizes the small scales, which, if Re is sufficiently high, induce bending waves on the vortex which further organize the small scales. Such backscatter from small scales cannot be modelled by an eddy viscosity. Based on the observation of such close coupling between large and small scales, we question the local isotropy assumption and conjecture a fractal vortex model for high Re turbulent flows.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)477-529
Number of pages53
Issue number3-4
StatePublished - Aug 1993


  • coherent structure/small-scale turbulence coupling
  • coherent structures
  • compressible vortex dynamics
  • core dynamics
  • helical wave decomposition
  • large-scale/small-scale interaction
  • Vortex dynamics
  • vortex reconnection

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Engineering(all)


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