M. Alqahtani, L. Grigorio, and T. Grafke, Phys. Rev. E 106 (2022) 015101
The advection and mixing of a scalar quantity by fluid flow is an important problem in engineering and natural sciences. If the fluid is turbulent, the statistics of the passive scalar exhibit complex behavior. This paper is concerned with two Lagrangian scalar turbulence models based on the recent fluid deformation model that can be shown to reproduce the statistics of passive scalar turbulence for a range of Reynolds numbers. For these models, we demonstrate how events of extreme passive scalar gradients can be recovered by computing the instanton, i.e., the saddle-point configuration of the associated stochastic field theory. It allows us to both reproduce the heavy-tailed statistics associated with passive scalar turbulence, and recover the most likely mechanism leading to such extreme events. We further demonstrate that events of large negative strain in these models undergo spontaneous symmetry breaking.