Turbulent mixing: A perspective

Research output: Contribution to journalReview articlepeer-review


Mixing of initially distinct substances plays an important role in our daily lives as well as in ecological and technological worlds. From the continuum point of view, which we adopt here, mixing is complete when the substances come together across smallest flow scales determined in part by molecular mechanisms, but important stages of the process occur via the advection of substances by an underlying flow. We know how smooth flows enable mixing but less well the manner in which a turbulent flow influences it; but the latter is the more common occurrence on Earth and in the universe. We focus here on turbulent mixing, with more attention paid to the postmixing state than to the transient process of initiation. In particular, we examine turbulent mixing when the substance is a scalar (i.e., characterized only by the scalar property of its concentration), and the mixing process does not influence the flow itself (i.e., the scalar is “passive”). This is the simplest paradigm of turbulent mixing. Within this paradigm, we discuss how a turbulently mixed state depends on the flow Reynolds number and the Schmidt number of the scalar (the ratio of fluid viscosity to the scalar diffusivity), point out some fundamental aspects of turbulent mixing that render it difficult to be addressed quantitatively, and summarize a set of ideas that help us appreciate its physics in diverse circumstances. We consider the so-called universal and anomalous features and summarize a few model studies that help us understand them both.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)18175-18183
Number of pages9
JournalProceedings of the National Academy of Sciences of the United States of America
Issue number37
StatePublished - Sep 10 2019


  • Anomalous features
  • Model studies
  • Ramp model
  • Turbulent mixing
  • Universal features

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • General


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