The near wake of discrete roughness elements on swept wings

G. Zoppini*, T. Michelis, D. Ragni, M. Kotsonis

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticleScientificpeer-review

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This work presents the first experimental characterization of the flow field in the vicinity of periodically spaced discrete roughness elements (DRE) in a swept wing boundary layer. The time-averaged velocity fields are acquired in a volumetric domain by high-resolution dual-pulse tomographic particle tracking velocimetry. Investigation of the stationary flow topology indicates that the near-element flow region is dominated by high- and low-speed streaks. The boundary layer spectral content is inferred by spatial fast Fourier transform (FFT) analysis of the spanwise velocity signal, characterizing the chordwise behaviour of individual disturbance modes. The two signature features of transient growth, namely algebraic growth and exponential decay, are identified in the chordwise evolution of the disturbance energy associated with higher harmonics of the primary stationary mode. A transient decay process is instead identified in the near-wake region just aft of each DRE, similar to the wake relaxation effect previously observed in two-dimensional boundary layer flows. The transient decay regime is found to condition the onset and initial amplitude of modal crossflow instabilities. Within the critical DRE amplitude range (i.e. affecting boundary layer transition without causing flow tripping) the transient disturbances are strongly receptive to the spanwise spacing and diameter of the elements, which drive the modal energy distribution within the spatial spectra. In the super-critical amplitude forcing (i.e. causing flow tripping) the near-element stationary flow topology is dominated by the development of a high-speed and strongly fluctuating region closely aligned with the DRE wake. Therefore, elevated shears and unsteady disturbances affect the near-element flow development. Combined with the harmonic modes transient growth these instabilities initiate a laminar streak structure breakdown and a bypass transition process.

Original languageEnglish
Article numberA11
Number of pages37
JournalJournal of Fluid Mechanics
Publication statusPublished - 2023


  • boundary layer receptivity
  • boundary layer stability
  • transition to turbulence


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