Subcritical transition to turbulence in quasi-two-dimensional shear flows

Christopher J. Camobreco, Alban Pothérat, Gregory J. Sheard

Research output: Contribution to journalArticleResearchpeer-review


The transition to turbulence in conduits is among the longest-standing problems in fluid mechanics. Challenges in producing or saving energy hinge on understanding promotion or suppression of turbulence. While a global picture based on an intrinsically 3-D subcritical mechanism is emerging for 3-D turbulence, subcritical turbulence is yet to even be observed when flows approach two dimensions, e.g. under intense rotation or magnetic fields. Here, stability analysis and direct numerical simulations demonstrate a subcritical quasi-Two-dimensional (quasi-2-D) transition from laminar flow to turbulence, via a radically different 2-D mechanism to the 3-D case, driven by nonlinear Tollmien-Schlichting waves. This alternative scenario calls for a new line of thought on the transition to turbulence and should inspire new strategies to control transition in rotating devices and nuclear fusion reactor blankets.

Original languageEnglish
Article numberR3
Number of pages11
JournalJournal of Fluid Mechanics
Publication statusPublished - 25 May 2023


  • nonlinear instability
  • shear-flow instability
  • transition to turbulence

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