The large-scale structure of many turbulent flows encountered in practical situations such as aeronautics, industry, meteorology is nowadays successfully computed using the Kolmogorov–Kármán–Howarth energy cascade picture. This theory appears increasingly inaccurate when going down the energy cascade that terminates through intermittent spots of energy dissipation, at variance with the assumed homogeneity. This is problematic for the modelling of all processes that depend on small scales of turbulence, such as combustion instabilities or droplet atomization in industrial burners or cloud formation. This paper explores a paradigm shift where the homogeneity hypothesis is replaced by the assumption that turbulence contains singularities, as suggested by Onsager. This paradigm leads to a weak formulation of the Kolmogorov–Kármán–Howarth–Monin equation (WKHE) that allows taking into account explicitly the presence of singularities and their impact on the energy transfer and dissipation. It provides a local in scale, space and time description of energy transfers and dissipation, valid for any inhomogeneous, anisotropic flow, under any type of boundary conditions. The goal of this article is to discuss WKHE as a tool to get a new description of energy cascades and dissipation that goes beyond Kolmogorov and allows the description of small-scale intermittency. It puts the problem of intermittency and dissipation in turbulence into a modern framework, compatible with recent mathematical advances on the proof of Onsager’s conjecture.
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