Density and tracer statistics in compressible turbulence: Phase transition to multifractality

Itzhak Fouxon, Michael Mond

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

5 Scopus citations


We study the statistics of fluid (gas) density and concentration of passive tracer particles (dust) in compressible turbulence. As Ma increases from small or moderate values, the density and the concentration in the inertial range go through a phase transition from a finite continuous smooth distribution to a singular multifractal spatial distribution. Multifractality is associated with scaling, which would not hold if the solenoidal and the potential components of the flow scaled differently, producing transport which is not self-similar. Thus, we propose that the transition occurs when the difference of the scaling exponents of the components, decreasing with Ma, becomes small. Under the smallness assumption, the particles' volumes obey a power-law evolution. That, by the use of conservation of the total volume of the flow, entails the volumes' shrinking to zero with probability 1 and formation of a singular distribution. We discuss various concepts of multifractality and propose a way to calculate fractal dimensions from numerical or experimental data. We derive a simple expression for the spectrum of fractal dimensions of isothermal turbulence and describe limitations of lognormality. The expression depends on a single parameter: the scaling exponent of the density spectrum. We demonstrate that the pair-correlation function of the tracer concentration has the Markov property. This implies applicability of the compressible version of the Kraichnan turbulence model. We use the model to derive an explicit expression for the tracer pair correlation that demonstrates their smooth transition to multifractality and confirms the transition's mechanism. The obtained fractal dimension explains previous numerical observations. Our results have potentially important implications for astrophysical problems such as star formation as well as technological applications such as supersonic combustion. As an example, we demonstrate the strong increase of planetesimal formation rate at the transition. We prove that finiteness of internal energy implies vanishing of the sum of Lyapunov exponents in the dissipation range. Our study leads to the question of whether the fluid density which is an active field that reacts back on the transporting flow and the passive concentration of tracers must coincide in the steady state. This is demonstrated to be crucial both theoretically and experimentally. The fields' coincidence is provable at small Mach numbers; however, at finite Mach numbers, the assumption of mixing is needed, which we demonstrate to be not self-evident because of the possibility of self-organization.

Original languageEnglish
Article number023111
JournalPhysical Review E
Issue number2
StatePublished - 20 Aug 2019

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Statistical and Nonlinear Physics
  • Statistics and Probability
  • Condensed Matter Physics


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