The paper explains a new way of detecting a vortex in an incompressible flow and presents a contrast
study of existing (when the paper was published) ways of identification to the proposed definition.
Why is this important?  Since coherent structures are strongly associated with vortices, an
appropriately defined scheme would permit us to detect coherent structures in inhomogeneous flows
more accurately, would result in more accurate and universal turbulence models and shed some light
on their role in turbulence.
According to the author, there are two requirements to identifying a vortex core, which are:
1. An existence of net vorticity (net circulation); therefore potential flow regions are not
included.
2. Geometry of the identified vortex core should be a Galilean invariant, i.e. it is independent of
the reference frame.
The author showcases the inadequacy of (3) intuitive measures  (a) Local pressure minimum
(b)Pathline and streamline & (c)Vorticity magnitude and compares the definitions of  Chong et al.
(1990) & Hunt et al. (1988) with the proposed definition.
1. Intuitive measures:
a. Local pressure minimum  The (intuitive) reasoning for this criterion is that in a steady
inviscid planar flow, there exists a pressure minimum on the axis of a swirling motion. In
three dimensions, pressure may be minimum in all three directions or just in the in the
plane perpendicular to the axis of circulatory motion  this condition includes the former
case.
It is inadequate as:
a. A welldefined pressure minimum can occur in an unsteady irrotational motion
which may or may not involve a vortex which is caused by an unsteady strain rate
(t).
b. In Karmans viscous pump, centrifugal force is balanced by the viscous force and
not pressure force hence a pressure minima condition wont detect the vortex.
c. In planar Stokes flow, pressure gradient is balanced only by viscous term hence
pressure minimum condition remains unsatisfied while vortices do occur.
d. Since pressure is inherently of a larger scale than vorticity (pressure is gorverned
by Poissons equation), the difference in scale makes it problematic in marking a
vortex using an isopressure surface.
b. Pathline and Streamline  Closed pathlines to detect vortices is inefficient as,
i. It fails to satisfy the condition of being a Galilean invariant.
ii. Vortices undergo many nonlinear processes like breakdown, pairing, tearing even
before the completion of a full revolution, which results in incomplete particle
paths hence no closed pathlines.
iii. Interacting regions of vortices result in regions of reconnections which result in
crooked pathlines and streamlines.
c. Vorticity Magnitude ()  This criterion should ideally be a subset in the scheme of
identification of a vortex core but it cannot the sole criterion, as:
i. In a shear flow, when the background shear is comparable to the vorticity
magnitude within the vortex,  fails to identify the vortex core.
ii. In planar wallbounded flows, maxima and minima of  occur only at the wall;
the flow immediately near the wall is characterized by shear and not swirling
motion. Hence if vortex identification excludes the wall then this condition cannot
be used to detect vortex cores in a boundary layer.
iii. In free shear flows, a vorticity sheet has a large  but it isnt a vortex.
2. Previously proposed definitions:
a. Complex eigenvalues of velocity gradient tensor (Chong et al. 1990):
Vortex core is a region with complex eigenvalues of velocity gradient tensor u, i.e. local
streamline pattern is closed in a reference frame moving with the point.
Eigenvalues, , of u, satisfy the characteristic equation,
3
 P
2
+ Q R = 0
where, P u
i,i
= 0 (incompressible flow)
Q u
i,j
u
j,i
R = Det(u
i,j
)
When Discriminant () is positive, we shall get complex eigenvalues.
= (
1
/
3
Q)
3
+ (
1
/
2
R)
2
> 0
b. The second invariant of u and kinematic vorticity number N
k
(Hunt et al. 1988):
Eddy is defined by the positive second invariant, Q, of u, with an additional condition
that pressure be lower than the ambient value. Q is defined as,
Q (u
i,j
u
j,i
) = (
2
 S
2
)
Where, S and are the symmetric and antisymmetric components of u respectively,
S
i,j
= (u
2
i,i
 u
i,j
u
j,i
) and
i,j
= (u
i,j
 u
j,i
)
Q vanishes at the wall hence free from the problem associated with  definition.
Replacing the local rotation rate (), Kinematic vorticity number (N
k
) is used to
measure the quality of rotation.
3. New Definition:
The author uses the pressure minima criteria as the starting point for the new definition.
The discrepancy in the pressure minimum definition arose because of two reasons  (i)
unsteady straining creating a pressure minimum without a swirling motion. (ii) viscous
effects, which eliminates pressure minimum in a vortical motion. Hence these two effects are
discarded.
Taking the gradient of NS equations,
and decomposing the acceleration gradient (a
i,j
) into symmetric and antisymmetric parts,
the symmetric part yields,
Since, the first and second terms represent unsteady irrotational straining and viscous effects
respectively we ignore it. Therefore, considering only S
2
+
2
vortex core is defined as a
connected region with two negative eigenvalues of S
2
+
2
.
Say
1
,
2
,
3
are the eigenvalues and
1
2
3
, the new definition requires
2
<0 within the
vortex core.
Therefore from the equations of Q and a
i,j
, we get,
With a condition that since (x, S
2
x) 0 while (x,
2
x) 0, our new definition requires
(x,
2
x) to be greater than (x, S
2
x) in one eigenplane of S
2
+
2
.
4. Applications of Definitions. (
2
definition; definition; Qdefinition; definition)
Following few examples illustrate the significant differences between the
2
definition and
others.
a. Inadequacy of   definition:
i. An inviscid streamwise vortex in a homogeneous shear flow:
This is an idealization of a vortex structure (for an evolved flow) in the wall region in a
flatplate turbulent boundary layer. The vertical and spanwise velocities are unchanged
in time when streamwise vorticity is constant in (yz) plane.
The figure (b) shows the  definition based visualization it displays two disconnected
peaks (M) in a single vortex core which are immaterial to the vortex geometry. The
figure (c) shows the
2
definition visual and it clearly depicts a single core consistent
with the vortex geometry, as shown in fig. (a) and is steady as opposed to the swirling
motion depicted in the fig. (b).
ii. Elliptic vortex ring
Here DNS data for an elliptic vortex ring (Husain and Hussain 1993) is considered
where two classes of vortices appear: an elliptic vortex ring with high  and riblike
streamwise vortices with lower  behind the elliptic ring. Since we have a large
variation of  to depict, you can understand clearly from figures (a) and (b) that 
definition fails to show both ribs and ring of the structure clearly in a single frame.
There is no clear demarcation between the ribs and ring in figure (a) while in figure (b)
the ribs are absent.
In contrast,
2
definition, shows both the structures clearly in figure (c).
b. Inadequacy of definition.
i. Conically symmetric vortex
Here a proposed model for a tornado (Shtern & Hussain 1993) is considered. It
consists of a swirling jet emerging into a halfspace with a source of axial momentum
and circulation, located at the origin. The flow has a conical symmetry, satisfies the full
NS equations and has no singularity on the axis except at the origin. Since the flow has
an axial velocity in addition to an azimuthal velocity around the vortex axis (zaxis) it
exhibits strong helical motion. Considering that the flow has a conical symmetry, the
vortex core boundary should also be conical in shape.
The definition, as shown below in figure (b), depicts two cores as shaded region
1 and 2 which is not the correct representation of the vortex geometry. Contrastingly,
the
2
definition depiction is without a detached vortex core.
ii. Mixing Layer.
Here we consider the DNS data of a temporal mixing layer, initialized with a
hyperbolic tangent streamwise velocity profile and a sinusoidal spanwise
distribution of streamwise vorticity, at the time of shear layer rollup.
Figure (a) shows a vortex core boundary based on definition notice that it is very
noisy. In contrast the figure (b) that is based on
2
definition, shows both the vortex
ribs and rolls structures clearly.
Considering the contour plots in the xz plane in figures (c) and (d), you can see the
unwanted noise and insignificant regions A and B in fig. (c) which are excluded in
fig. (d).
c. Inadequacy of the Qdefinition:
i. Conically symmetric vortex:
The Qdefinition shows a narrow hollow core near the axis as otherwise
shown by
2
definition. Since fluid particles near the axis undergo almost solid
body rotation, this exclusion is unreasonable.
ii. An axisymmetric axial vortex within a vortex ring
The Qdefinition incorrectly shows disconnected cores as shown in the figure
(c) below. In contrast
2
definition correctly shows a continuous vortex in figure (d).
Conclusion:
A large variety of cases were considered and among the four definitions considered,
2

definition was found to the most appropriate in representing the geometry and topology of the
vortex cores.
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