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Starting from the basic conservation laws of fluid flow, we investigated transition and breakdown to turbulence of a laminar flat plate boundary layer exposed to small, statistically stationary, two-component, three-dimensional disturbances. The derived equations for the statistical properties of the disturbances are closed using the two-point correlation technique and invariant theory. By considering the equilibrium solutions of the modeled equations, the transition criterion is formulated in terms of a Reynolds number based on the intensity and the length scale of the disturbances. The deduced transition criterion determines conditions that guarantee maintenance of the local equilibrium between the production and the viscous dissipation of the disturbances and therefore the laminar flow regime in the flat plate boundary layer. The experimental and numerical databases for fully developed turbulent channel and pipe flows at different Reynolds numbers were utilized to demonstrate the validity of the derived transition criterion for the estimation of the onset of turbulence in wall-bounded flows.
PAPER REVISED: 2003-09-05
PAPER ACCEPTED: 2003-09-15
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