Conditioning of unsteady cross-flow instability modes using dielectric barrier discharge plasma actuators

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In this study, experiments are performed towards the identification and measurement of unsteady modes occurring in a transitional swept wing boundary layer. These modes are generated by the interaction between the primary stationary and travelling cross-flow instabilities or by secondary instability mechanisms of the stationary cross-flow vortices and have a crucial role in the laminar-to-turbulent breakdown process. Detailed hot-wire measurements were performed at the location of stationary instability amplitude-saturation. In order to deterministically capture the spatio-temporal evolution of the unsteady modes, measurements were phase- and frequency-conditioned using concurrent forcing by means of a dielectric barrier discharge plasma actuator mounted upstream of the measurement domain. The actuator effect, when positioned sufficiently upstream the secondary modes onset, was tuned such to successfully condition the high-frequency type-I and the low-frequency type-III modes without modifying the transition evolution. Two primary stationary cross-flow vortices of different amplitude were measured, revealing the effect of base-flow variations on the growth of travelling instabilities. The response of these two stationary waves to the naturally occurring and forced fluctuations was captured at different chordwise positions. Additionally, the deterministic conditioning of the instability phase to the phase of the actuation allowed phase-averaged reconstruction of the spatio-temporal evolution of the unsteady structures providing valuable insight on their topology. Finally, the effect of locating the actuator at a more downstream position, closer to the type-I mode branch-I, resulted in laminar-to turbulent breakdown for the high-frequency actuation while the low-frequency forcing showed milder effects on the transition evolution.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)305-318
Number of pages14
JournalExperimental Thermal and Fluid Science
Publication statusPublished - 1 May 2018


  • Cross-flow instability
  • Laminar-to-turbulent transition
  • Plasma actuator
  • Swept wing

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