Analysis of amplification mechanisms and cross-frequency interactions in nonlinear flows via the harmonic resolvent

Alberto Padovan, Samuel E. Otto, Clarence W. Rowley

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19 Scopus citations


We propose a framework that elucidates the input-output characteristics of flows with complex dynamics arising from nonlinear interactions between different time scales. More specifically, we consider a periodically time-varying base flow, and perform a frequency-domain analysis of periodic perturbations about this base flow. The response of these perturbations is governed by the harmonic resolvent, which is a linear operator similar to the harmonic transfer function introduced by Wereley (1991 Analysis and control of linear periodically time-varying systems, PhD thesis, Massachusetts Institute of Technology). This approach makes it possible to explicitly capture the triadic interactions that are responsible for the energy transfer between different time scales in the flow. For instance, perturbations at frequency are coupled with perturbations at frequency through the base flow at frequency. We draw a connection with resolvent analysis, which is a special case of the harmonic resolvent when evaluated about a steady base flow. We show that the left and right singular vectors of the harmonic resolvent are the optimal response and forcing modes, which can be understood as full spatio-temporal signals that reveal space-time amplification characteristics of the flow. Finally, we illustrate the method on examples, including a three-dimensional system of ordinary differential equations and the flow over an airfoil at near-stall angle of attack.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Article numberA14
JournalJournal of Fluid Mechanics
StatePublished - 2020

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • Condensed Matter Physics
  • Mechanics of Materials
  • Mechanical Engineering
  • Applied Mathematics


  • control theory


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