A better understanding of the transition process in open flows can be obtained through identification of the possible asymptotic response states in the flow. In the present work, the asymptotic states in laminar wakes behind circular cylinders at low supercritical Reynolds numbers are investigated. Direct numerical simulation of the flow is performed, using spectral-element techniques. Naturally produced wakes, and periodically forced wakes are considered separately.
It is shown that, in the absence of external forcing, a periodic state is obtained, the frequency of which is selected by the absolute instability of the time-average flow. The non-dimensional frequency of the vortex street (Strouhal number) is a continuous function of the Reynolds number. In periodically forced wakes, however, non-periodic states are also possible, resulting from the bifurcation of the natural periodic state. The response of forced wakes can be characterized as: (i) lock-in, if the dominant frequency in the wake equals the excitation frequency, or (ii) non-lock-in, when the dominant frequency in the wake equals the Strouhal frequency. Both types of response can be periodic or quasi-periodic, depending on the combination of the amplitude and frequency of the forcing. At the boundary separating the two types of response transitional states develop, which are found to exhibit a low-order chaotic behaviour. Finally, all states resulting from the bifurcation of the natural state can be represented in a two-parameter space inside ‘resonant horn’ type of regions.