Geometric diagnostics of complex patterns: Spiral defect chaos

Hermann Riecke*, Santiago Madruga

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

6 Scopus citations


Motivated by the observation of spiral patterns in a wide range of physical, chemical, and biological systems, we present an automated approach that aims at characterizing quantitatively spiral-like elements in complex stripelike patterns. The approach provides the location of the spiral tip and the size of the spiral arms in terms of their arc length and their winding number. In addition, it yields the number of pattern components (Betti number of order 1), as well as their size and certain aspects of their shape. We apply the method to spiral defect chaos in thermally driven Rayleigh-Bánard convection and find that the arc length of spirals decreases monotonically with decreasing Prandtl number of the fluid and increasing heating. By contrast, the winding number of the spirals is nonmonotonic in the heating. The distribution function for the number of spirals is significantly narrower than a Poisson distribution. The distribution function for the winding number shows approximately an exponential decay. It depends only weakly on the heating, but strongly on the Prandtl number. Large spirals arise only for larger Prandtl numbers (Pr≳1). In this regime the joint distribution for the spiral length and the winding number exhibits a three-peak structure, indicating the dominance of Archimedean spirals of opposite sign and relatively straight sections. For small Prandtl numbers the distribution function reveals a large number of small compact pattern components.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Article number013125
Issue number1
StatePublished - 2006

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Statistical and Nonlinear Physics
  • Mathematical Physics
  • Physics and Astronomy(all)
  • Applied Mathematics


Dive into the research topics of 'Geometric diagnostics of complex patterns: Spiral defect chaos'. Together they form a unique fingerprint.

Cite this