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D I S A M B I G U AT I O N : S T R A I N R AT E S V S

S H E A R R AT E
geoffroy chaussonnet*

first decomposition: the velocity gradient tensor

The gradient of the velocity vector is a second order tensor u = ui /x j that is defined
locally at each point of the flow. It can also be seen as the Jacobian matrix of the velocity field
(u = J). For instance, in 2D, it yields:

u
x
ui
=
v
x j
x

u
y

v
y

(1)

The matrix J can be divided in two part, a symmetric E and anti-symmetric R one:
J = E+R

E=

with

1
( J +t J )
2

and

R=

1
( J t J )
2

(2)

The matrix E represent the pure deformation of the flow (expansion/compression, elongation,
shearing, etc) and it is called the strain rate tensor. The matrix R represents a pure rigid
rotation. More explicitly:
ui
1
=
x j
2
|




u j
u j
ui
1 ui
+
+

x j
xi
2 x j
xi
{z
} |
{z
}

E: symmetric part

(3)

R: anti-symmetric part

Figure 1 provides an illustration of the symmetric/anti-symmetric decomposition. In 2D,


matrices E and R yields:

x
E=
1  v u 
+
2 x
y
2

1
2

u v
+
y x
v
y

and R = 

1 v u 

2 x
y

1
2

u v

y x
0

(4)

second decomposition: the strain rate tensor

Lets consider the matrix E, it is possible to further decompose it into a constant D and a
traceless tensor S:
E = D+S

with

D = tr( E) I and

* geoffroy.chaussonnet@kit.edu

S = E tr( E) I

(5)

second decomposition: the strain rate tensor

Figure 1: Illustration of the flow decomposition. Left: the symmetric matrix E (pure deformation). Right: the anti-symmetric matrix R (pure rotation)
where tr and I are respectively the trace operator and the identity matrix. More explicitly,
D is called the expansion rate tensor and represents the local gradual isotropic expansion or
contraction of the flow. It is a diagonal matrix with all terms equal:
1
dij =
nd

ul
xl


ij

(6)

where the Einstein convention is applied (terms where the index appearance is an even number are summed) and ij the Dirac-delta function. The variable nd is the number of dimension
of the problem. The term ul /xl is the divergence of the velocity field, so the matrix D is
zero for incompressible flow.
The matrix S is the shear rate tensor that represents a gradual deformation with no changes
in volume (traceless matrix).




u j
1 ui
1 ul
sij =
+

ij
(7)
2 x j
xi
nd xl
The shear rate tensor can exhibits some diagonal terms which are related to a pure strain
motion (e.g. elongation) and off-diagonals terms that represent pure shear effects. Figure 2
illustrates both matrices D and S.

Figure 2: Illustration of the decomposition of E. Left: the scalar part D. Right: the traceless
part S

illustration in 2d

illustration in 2d

Equation 8 shows their expressions in 2D:



 




u v
u v
u v
+
0

1
1
x y
x y
y x



 

D=
and S = 
2
2
v u
u v
v u
0
+
+

x y
x
y
y x
It is noticeable that S can be written under the general form:





a b
u v
u v
1

S=
where a = x y and b = y + x
2
b a

(8)

(9)

In 2D, the two invariants of 22 tensor A are:


I A = tr( A)

1
II A =
tr( A)2 tr( A2 )
2

(10a)
(10b)

In the case of the shear rate tensor S, the invariants are:


IS = tr(S) = 0

1
a2 + b2
1
tr(S)2 tr(S2 ) = tr(S2 ) =
IIS =
2
2
4

(11a)
(11b)

In linear algebra, if two matrices A and B have the same invariants, then they are similar, i.e.
it exists a change-of-basis matrix P so that:
B = P1 AP

(12)

and it means that both A and B represent the same endomorphism, in our case of S with a
physical meaning, both tensors represent the same local deformation of the fluid particle.
Lets take the example of pure shearing 2D flow as depicted on Fig. 3 with a channel height
of H.

Figure 3: Pure shearing 2D flow. Channel height is H


The velocity fields writes:

U
y = y
H

v=0
u=

(13a)
(13b)

illustration in 2d

The variable is the so-called shear rate of the pure shear flow. The velocity gradient can be
decomposed into R, S and D:

R=

0
0 0
0
1

and S = 1
and D =

2
2
0 0
0
0

(14)

Lets focus on the shear rate tensor S. Its invariants are:


IS = tr(S) = 0
1

IIS = tr(S2 ) =
2
4

(15a)
(15b)

So we can relate the scalar shear rate to the trace of S2 :


q
q
= 2 tr(S2 ) = 2 s2ij

(16)

In addition, S is a symetric tensor so that it can be diagonalized with an orthogonal changeof-basis matrix. In our particular case, we find:

0 2 1 1
1 1
1 0
= 2
2

S = PP1 =
(17)

2
2
2
0
1 1
0
1 1
2
where P is the orthogonal change-of-basis matrix, and represent the coordinate of the new
base expressed in the old base. The particular expression of this matrix (P) represents a
rotation of 45 of the old basis. If we calculate the invariants of , we find the same ones
as for S and both matrices depict the same flow motion. If we express the whole velocity
gradient is the new basis, we obtain the following decomposition:
P1 JP = P1 RP + P1 DP + P1 SP

(18)

More explicitly:

0
ui0
= R0 + 0 + =
0

x j
2



2 +0+ 2

0
0

(19)

which means that a pure shearing 2D flow can be decomposed as the sum of a pure rigid
rotation and a pure straining motion with a zero rate of expansion, as stated by Batchelor
in his book (Section 2.3). Bachelor generalizes this statement to 3D flows: any local relative
velocity field may be represented as the superposition of a symmetrical expansion, two simple shearing
motions, and a rigid rotation. So it means that, in 2D, any elongation can be seen as shearing.
Note that this equivalence between shearing and straining motion ensures that Eq. 16 is a
general definition of the scalar shear rate for every flow.
Now comes an illustration of what was mentioned above: when considering only fluid deformation, a 2D pure shearing flow is equivalent to 2D counter flow. Lets consider a 2D counter
flow configuration as depicted in Fig. 4. This flow is also mentioned in Batchelors book as
an irrotational solenoidal flow near a stagnation point (Section 2.7). The velocity field is:

miscellaneous questions

Figure 4: Sketch of a counter flow. Streamlines are in red.


(

u = kx

(20a)

v = ky

(20b)

In this type of flow, the matrices R and D are zero, only the shear rate tensor is non-zero and
yields:

k
0

ui
2

=S=
(21)

x j
k
0
2
Now look at the shear rate tensor in Eq. 19 and compare it with S in Eq. 21, we can observe
Similarly,qif we apply the definition of the scalar
that both tensors are the same with k = .
So the question is:
shear stress (Eq. 16) to this flow, we find once again 2 s2ij = k = .
How do we make the difference between a shearing and straining motion in the general case, if both
motions have the same invariants ?
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miscellaneous questions
Concerning the equivalence of 2D pure shear/pure strain flows, why is it so famous in
combustion ? and why the combustion guys do not experiment shearing flow instead ?
If we superimpose a flame front on this configuration, (in order to study the strain
of rate of the flow onto the flame), we would have to consider its orientation. The classical situation is a flame aligned with the x-axis. We know from above than the shear rate
tensor of this flow is diagonal, meaning that x and y axis are the principal directions (or
eigenvectors) of the shear tensor. So when the flame is aligned on the x-axis, it undergoes a pure strain. If, for any reason, the flame was tilted by 45 , it would undergo a
pure shearing (we neglect here the rigid rotation effect on the flame).
If pure shear/pure strain are equivalent, why do we consider difference between elongation and shearing in non-Newtonian flows ?
First, everything stated in this document are considerations about fluid motion (or fluid
kinematics). The dynamics is left apart, and of course for non-Newtonian fluids, the
link between deformation and stress is not necessary a scalar and linear relation. Second, in reality, a flow is 3D and can be decomposed as the sum a constant flow, a pure

conclusion

rigid rotation, a pure expansion and two pure shearing flows. It is therefore possible
in 3D to have two independent shearing motions, that can be considered as, for instance, one pure straining motion and one pure shearing motion. So, for a realistic 3D
non-Newtonian liquid, it is possible to consider shearing and strain independently.
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conclusion
In a 2D flow, a pure shearing motion is equivalent to a pure straining motion, as their
invariants are the same.
The definition
of the scalar shear stress that we find in every book for a pure shear flow
q
( = 2 s2ij ) does not allow to distinguish a pure shearing motion from a pure straining
motion.
In 3D flows, two independent shearing/straining motions can co-exist. How can we
decompose the shear rate tensor and separate the contribution of the two motions ?
(Maybe with the third invariant of a 33 matrix: the determinant)

sources
Sections 1 and 2 were mostly derived from the following wikipedia page (even though
results were double-checked with the book of Batchelor):
https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Strain_rate_tensor
G.K. Batechlor, An introduction to fluid dynamics
Figures 1 and 2 by Jorge Stolfi - Own work, CC BY-SA 3.0. Wikimedia Commons.