This paper presents an analysis and numerical study of the relations between the small-scale velocity and scalar fields in fully developed isotropic turbulence with random forcing of the large scales and with an imposed constant mean scalar gradient. Simulations have been performed for a range of Reynolds numbers from Reλ = 22 to 130 and Schmidt numbers from Sc = 1/25 to 144.
The simulations show that for all values of Sc [ges ] 0.1 steep scalar gradients are concentrated in intermittently distributed sheet-like structures with a thickness approximately equal to the Batchelor length scale η/Sc½ with η the Kolmogorov length scale. We observe that these sheets or cliffs are preferentially aligned perpendicular to the direction of the mean scalar gradient. Due to this preferential orientation of the cliffs the small-scale scalar field is anisotropic and this is an example of direct coupling between the large- and small-scale fluctuations in a turbulent field. The numerical simulations also show that the steep cliffs are formed by straining motions that compress the scalar field along the imposed mean scalar gradient in a very short time period, proportional to the Kolmogorov time scale. This is valid for the whole range of Sc. The generation of these concentration gradients is amplified by rotation of the scalar gradient in the direction of compressive strain. The combination of high strain rate and the alignment results in a large increase of the scalar gradient and therefore in a large scalar dissipation rate.
These results of our numerical study are discussed in the context of experimental results (Warhaft 2000) and kinematic simulations (Holzer & Siggia 1994). The theoretical arguments developed here follow from earlier work of Batchelor & Townsend (1956), Betchov (1956) and Dresselhaus & Tabor (1991).