Kolmogorov microscales

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Kolmogorov microscales are the smallest scales in turbulent flow. At the Kolmogorov scale, viscosity dominates and the turbulent kinetic energy is dissipated into heat. They are defined[1] by

Kolmogorov length scale \eta = \left( \frac{\nu^3}{\epsilon} \right)^{1/4}
Kolmogorov time scale \tau_\eta = \left( \frac{\nu}{\epsilon} \right)^{1/2}
Kolmogorov velocity scale u_\eta = \left( \nu \epsilon \right)^{1/4}

where \epsilon is the average rate of dissipation of turbulence kinetic energy per unit mass, and \nu is the kinematic viscosity of the fluid. Typical values of the Kolmogorov microscale, for atmospheric motion in which eddies have length scales on the order of kilometers, range from 0.1 to 10 millimeters; for smaller flows such as in laboratory systems, the microscales may be much smaller[2].

In his 1941 theory, Andrey Kolmogorov introduced the idea that the smallest scales of turbulence are universal (similar for every turbulent flow) and that they depend only on \epsilon and \nu. The definitions of the Kolmogorov microscales can be obtained using this idea and dimensional analysis. It therefore is not a theory derived from first principles. Since the dimension of kinematic viscosity is length2/time, and the dimension of the energy dissipation rate per unit mass is length2/time3, the only combination that has the dimension of time is  \tau_\eta=(\nu / \epsilon)^{1/2} which is the Kolmorogov time scale. Similarly, the Kolmogorov length scale is the only combination of \epsilon and \nu that has dimension of length.

The Kolmogorov 1941 theory is a mean field theory since it assumes that the relevant dynamical parameter is the mean energy dissipation rate. In fluid turbulence, the energy dissipation rate fluctuates in space and time, so it is possible to think of the microscales as quantities that also vary in space and time. However, standard practice is to use mean field values since they represent the typical values of the smallest scales in a given flow.

See also[edit]


  1. ^ M. T. Landahl; E. Mollo-Christensen (1992). Turbulence and Random Processes in Fluid Mechanics (2nd ed.). Cambridge University Press. p. 10. ISBN 978-0521422130. 
  2. ^ George, William K. "Lectures in Turbulence for the 21st Century." Department of Thermo and Fluid Engineering, Chalmers University of Technology, Göteborg, Sweden (2005).p 64 [online] http://www.turbulence-online.com/Publications/Lecture_Notes/Turbulence_Lille/TB_16January2013.pdf