In the Lagrangian representation, the problem of advection of a passive marker particle by a prescribed flow defines a dynamical system. For two-dimensional incompressible flow this system is Hamiltonian and has just one degree of freedom. For unsteady flow the system is non-autonomous and one must in general expect to observe chaotic particle motion. These ideas are developed and subsequently corroborated through the study of a very simple model which provides an idealization of a stirred tank. In the model the fluid is assumed incompressible and inviscid and its motion wholly two-dimensional. The agitator is modelled as a point vortex, which, together with its image(s) in the bounding contour, provides a source of unsteady potential flow. The motion of a particle in this model device is computed numerically. It is shown that the deciding factor for integrable or chaotic particle motion is the nature of the motion of the agitator. With the agitator held at a fixed position, integrable marker motion ensues, and the model device does not stir very efficiently. If, on the other hand, the agitator is moved in such a way that the potential flow is unsteady, chaotic marker motion can be produced. This leads to efficient stirring. A certain case of the general model, for which the differential equations can be integrated for a finite time to produce an explicitly given, invertible, area-preserving mapping, is used for the calculations. The paper contains discussion of several issues that put this regime of chaotic advection in perspective relative to both the subject of turbulent advection and to recent work on critical points in the advection patterns of steady laminar flows. Extensions of the model, and the notion of chaotic advection, to more realistic flow situations are commented upon.
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