Low-frequency unsteadiness mechanisms in shock wave/turbulent boundary layer interactions over a backward-facing step

Weibo Hu*, Stefan Hickel, Bas W. Van Oudheusden

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticleScientificpeer-review

12 Citations (Scopus)
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The low-frequency unsteady motions behind a backward-facing step (BFS) in a turbulent flow at and are investigated using a well-resolved large-eddy simulation. The instantaneous flow field illustrates the unsteady phenomena of the shock wave/boundary layer interaction (SWBLI) system, including vortex shedding in the shear layer, the flapping motions of the shock and breathing of the separation bubble, streamwise streaks near the wall and arc-shaped vortices in the turbulent boundary layer downstream of the separation bubble. A spectral analysis reveals that the low-frequency behaviour of the system is related to the interaction between shock wave and separated shear layer, while the medium-frequency motions are associated with the shedding of shear layer vortices. Using a three-dimensional dynamic mode decomposition (DMD), we analyse the individual contributions of selected modes to the unsteadiness of the shock and streamwise-elongated vortices around the reattachment region. Görtler-like vortices, which are induced by the centrifugal forces originating from the strong curvature of the streamlines in the reattachment region, are strongly correlated with the low-frequency unsteadiness in the current BFS case. Our DMD analysis and the comparison with an identical but laminar case provide evidence that these unsteady Görtler-like vortices are affected by fluctuations in the incoming boundary layer. Compared with SWBLI in flat plate and ramp configurations, we observe a slightly higher non-dimensional frequency (based on the separation length) of the low-frequency mode.

Original languageEnglish
Article numberA107
JournalJournal of Fluid Mechanics
Publication statusPublished - 2021


  • compressible boundary layers
  • shock waves
  • wave-turbulence interactions


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