Can we teach turbulence to a machine?

March 19, 2021

Turbulence, the ubiquitous and chaotic state of fluid motions, is characterized by strong and statistically nontrivial fluctuations of the velocity field, and it can be quantitatively described only in terms of statistical averages. Strong nonstationarities impede statistical convergence, precluding quantifying turbulence, for example, in terms of turbulence intensity or Reynolds number. Here, we show that by using deep neural networks, we can accurately estimate the Reynolds number within 15% accuracy, from a statistical sample as small as two large-scale eddy turnover times.

In contrast, physics-based statistical estimators are limited by the convergence rate of the central limit theorem and provide, for the same statistical sample, at least a hundredfold larger error. Our findings open up previously unexplored perspectives and the possibility to quantitatively define and, therefore, study highly nonstationary turbulent flows as ordinarily found in nature and in industrial processes.

Researchers from the Toschi group investigate the capability of a state-of-the-art deep neural model at learning features of turbulent velocity signals. Deep Neural Network (DNN) models are at the center of the present machine learning revolution. The set of complex tasks in which they over perform human capabilities and best algorithmic solutions grows at an impressive rate and includes, but it is not limited to, image, video and language analysis, automated control, and even life science modeling.

Read the article 'Deep learning velocity signals allow quantifying turbulence intensity' in Science Advances: