This paper investigates the dynamics of velocity gradients for a spatially developing flow generated by a single square element of a fractal square grid at low inlet Reynolds number through direct numerical simulation. This square grid-element is also the fundamental block of a classical grid. The flow along the grid-element centreline is initially irrotational and becomes turbulent further downstream due to the lateral excursions of vortical turbulent wakes from the grid-element bars. We study the generation and evolution of the symmetric and anti-symmetric parts of the velocity gradient tensor for this spatially developing flow using the transport equations of mean strain product and mean enstrophy respectively. The choice of low inlet Reynolds number allows for fine spatial resolution and long simulations, both of which are conducive in balancing the budget equations of the above quantities. The budget analysis is carried out along the grid-element centreline and the bar centreline. The former is observed to consist of two subregions: one in the immediate lee of the grid-element which is dominated by irrotational strain, and one further downstream where both strain and vorticity coexist. In the demarcation area between these two subregions, where the turbulence is inhomogeneous and developing, the energy spectrum exhibits the best
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