Volumetric evolution of elastic turbulence in porous media

Daniel W. Carlson, Kazumi Toda-Peters, Amy Q. Shen, Simon J. Haward

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

4 Scopus citations


Viscoelastic flow instability, which is compelled by elastic effects rather than inertia, can be driven to a chaotic state termed elastic turbulence (ET) manifested as strong velocity fluctuations with an algebraic decay in the frequency spectrum and increased mixing. We report the first spatiotemporally complete description of ET by considering a broad volume within a novel three-dimensional ordered porous medium, reconstructing flow at a micrometre characteristic length scale (Reynolds numbers ≪ 1) via time-resolved microtomographic particle image velocimetry. Beyond a critical Weissenberg number of 2, we observe an elastic flow instability accompanied by an enhanced pressure drop with spectral characteristics typical of ET. Polymer chains in the ET flow state are advected along increasingly curved streamlines between pores such that they accumulate strain and generate a local flow instability evaluated per an established instability criterion based on local evaluation of elastic tensile stress and streamline curvature. The onset of ET leads to increased pore-scale resistance and positive feedback on upstream streamline curvature. ET is thus characterized by a continuous evolution between states of laminar and unstable flow: pores with unstable flow flood their adjacent peers and thus encourage straightened streamlines and flow stability across the array, while positive feedback from flow resistance on streamline curvature results in the instability propagating upstream along the array. By employing a geometrically ordered medium, we permit flow state communication between pores, yielding generalized insights highlighting the significance of spatial correlation and flow history, and thus provide new avenues for explaining the mechanisms of ET.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Article numberA36
JournalJournal of Fluid Mechanics
StatePublished - Nov 10 2022


  • microscale transport
  • porous media
  • viscoelasticity

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Condensed Matter Physics
  • Mechanics of Materials
  • Mechanical Engineering
  • Applied Mathematics


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