Transition to turbulence in a pipe
Seminar Room 1, Newton Institute
The puzzle of why fluid motion along a pipe is observed to become turbulent as the flow rate is increased remains the outstanding challenge of hydrodynamic stability theory, despite more than a century of research. The issue is both of deep scientific and engineering interest since most pipe flows are turbulent in practice even at modest flow rates. All theoretical work indicates that the flow is linearly stable i.e. infinitesimal disturbances decay as they propagate along the pipe and the flow will remain laminar. Finite amplitude perturbations are responsible for triggering turbulence and these become more important as the non-dimensional flow rate, the Reynolds number Re, increases. Transition is generally abrupt and elucidating the details is difficult in practice. Here we report new experimental results on the appearance of periodic states which arise below the transition threshold. They are in accord with recent numerical results and their role in the transition process will be discussed.