The transitions between two states of a bistable system are investigated experimentally and analyzed in the framework of rare-event statistics. Considering a disk pendulum swept by a flow in a wind tunnel, bistability between two aerodynamic branches is observed, with spontaneous transitions from one branch to the other. The waiting times before spontaneous transition are distributed following a double exponential as a function of the control parameter, spanning 4 orders of magnitude in time, for both transitions. Inspired by a model originally applied to the transition to turbulence, we show that, for the disk pendulum, both transitions are controlled by rare events of the aerodynamic forces acting on the disk which we propose to link in particular to the vortex shedding-induced fluctuations. Beyond the aerodynamic aspects, this work has interesting fundamental outcomes regarding the broad field of rare events in out-of-equilibrium systems.
Source: Rare Event-Triggered Transitions in Aerodynamic Bifurcation. Ariane Gayout, Mickael Bourgoin et Nicolas Plihon, Physical Review Letters, March 9, 2021.