a1 Department of Mathematics, University of Bristol, Bristol BS8 1TW, UK
a2 School of Engineering Sciences, University of Southampton, Southampton, SO17 1BJ, UK
The recent theoretical discovery of families of unstable travelling-wave solutions in pipe flow at Reynolds numbers lower than the transitional range, naturally raises the question of their relevance to the turbulent transition process. Here, a series of numerical experiments are conducted in which we look for the spatial signature of these travelling waves in transitionary flows. Working within a periodic pipe of 5D (diameters) length, we find that travelling waves with low wall shear stresses (lower branch solutions) are on a surface in phase space which separates initial conditions which uneventfully relaminarize and those which lead to a turbulent evolution. This dividing surface (a separatrix if turbulence is a sustained state) is then minimally the union of the stable manifolds of all these travelling waves. Evidence for recurrent travelling-wave visits is found in both 5D and 10D long periodic pipes, but only for those travelling waves with low-to-intermediate wall shear stress and for less than about 10% of the time in turbulent flow at Re = 2400. Given this, it seems unlikely that the mean turbulent properties such as wall shear stress can be predicted as an expansion solely over the travelling waves in which their individual properties are appropriately weighted. Instead the onus is on isolating further dynamical structures such as periodic orbits and including them in any such expansion.
(Received October 30 2006)
(Revised February 26 2007)