We consider the flow of a viscous incompressible fluid in a parallel-walled channel, driven by steady uniform suction through the porous channel walls. A similarity transformation reduces the Navier-Stokes equations to a single partial differential equation (PDE) for the stream function, with two-point boundary conditions. We discuss the bifurcations of the steady solutions first, and show how a pitchfork bifurcation is unfolded when a symmetry of the problem is broken.
Then we describe time-dependent solutions of the governing PDE, which we calculate numerically. We analyse these unsteady solutions when there is a high rate of suction through one wall, and the other wall is impermeable: there is a limit cycle composed of an explosive phase of inviscid growth, and a slow viscous decay. The inviscid phase ‘almost’ has a finite-time singularity. We discuss whether solutions of the governing PDE, which are exact solutions of the Navier-Stokes equations, may develop mathematical singularities in a finite time.
When the rates of suction at the two walls are equal so that the problem is symmetrical, there is an abrupt transition to chaos, a ‘homoclinic explosion’, in the time-dependent solutions as the Reynolds number is increased. We unfold this transition by perturbing the symmetry, and compare direct numerical integrations of the governing PDE with a recent theory for ‘Lorenz-like’ dynamical systems. The chaos is found to be very sensitive to symmetry breaking.