Known structures and self-sustaining mechanisms of wall turbulence are reviewed and explored in the context of the scale interactions implied by the nonlinear advective term in the Navier–Stokes equations. The viewpoint is shaped by the systems approach provided by the resolvent framework for wall turbulence proposed by McKeon & Sharma (J. Fluid Mech., vol. 658, 2010, pp. 336–382), in which the nonlinearity is interpreted as providing the forcing to the linear Navier–Stokes operator (the resolvent). Elements of the structure of wall turbulence that can be uncovered as the treatment of the nonlinearity ranges from data-informed approximation to analysis of exact solutions of the Navier–Stokes equations (so-called exact coherent states) are discussed. The article concludes with an outline of the feasibility of extending this kind of approach to high-Reynolds-number wall turbulence in canonical flows and beyond.
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