Journal of Fluid Mechanics

Equilibrium layers and wall turbulence

A. A.  Townsend a1
a1 Emmanuel College, Cambridge

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In turbulent flow past rigid boundaries, there can be distinguished regions close to the wall in which the local rates of energy production and dissipation are so large that aspects of the turbulent motion concerned with these processes are determined almost solely by the distribution of shear stress within the region and are independent of conditions outside it. These regions are here called equilibrium layers because of the equilibrium existing between local rates of energy production and dissipation. Three kinds of equilibrium layer have been studied experimentally, the constant-stress layer, the transpiration layer and the zero-stress layer, but there are other possible forms. One that is of importance in the theory of self-preserving flow in boundary layers and in diffusers is the ‘linear-stress’ layer in which the stress increases linearly with distance from the wall. The properties of these various equilibrium layers are considered and the distributions of mean velocity are derived from the equation for the turbulent kinetic energy and certain assumptions of flow similarity.

The theory of self-preserving wall flow, usually expressed as a combination of the law of the wall and the defect law, assumes compatibility between the outer flow and the equilibrium layer, and the course of development depends on the kind of equilibrium layer. Earlier work by the author, which assumed the defect law, is only valid if the whole of the equilibrium layer is a constant-stress layer and this is not true in strong adverse pressure gradients. A consistent theory is developed for these flows by assuming a ‘linear-stress’ layer, and the solutions show the relation between flows of finite stress and of zero stress and provide a plausible explanation of the phenomenon of downstream instability observed by Clauser. Self-preserving flow in wedges is treated on similar lines.

(Published Online March 28 2006)
(Received December 5 1960)