Experimental observation of hairpin auto-generation events in a turbulent boundary layer

Y. Jodai, G. E. Elsinga*

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticleScientificpeer-review

42 Citations (Scopus)


Time-resolved tomographic particle image velocimetry experiments show that new hairpin vortices are generated within a fully developed and unperturbed turbulent boundary layer. The measurements are taken at a Reynolds number based on the momentum thickness of 2038, and cover the near-wall region below y+ = 140, where y+ is the wall-normal distance in wall units. Instantaneous visualizations of the flow reveal near-wall low-speed streaks with associated quasi-streamwise vortices, retrograde inverted arch vortices, hairpin vortices and hairpin packets. The hairpin heads are observed as close to the wall as y+ = 30. Examples of hairpin packet evolution reveal the development of new hairpin vortices, which are created upstream and close to the wall in a manner consistent with the auto-generation model (Zhou et al., J. Fluid Mech., vol. 387, 1999, pp. 353-396). The development of the new hairpin appears to be initiated by an approaching sweep event, which perturbs the shear layer associated with the initial packet. The shear layer rolls up, thereby forming the new hairpin head. The head subsequently connects to existing streamwise vortices and develops into a hairpin. The time scale associated with the hairpin auto-generation is 20-30 wall units of time. This demonstrates that hairpins can be created over short distances within a developed turbulent boundary layer, implying that they are not simply remnants of the laminar-to-turbulent transition process far upstream.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)611-633
JournalJournal of Fluid Mechanics
Publication statusPublished - 2016


  • boundary layer structure
  • Boundary layers


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