Three-dimensional development of coherent structures in a two-dimensional laminar separation bubble

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Three-dimensional flow development is experimentally assessed in a convectively unstable laminar separation bubble formed over a NACA 0018 airfoil at a chord Reynolds number of 125,000, an angle of attack of 4 deg, and a freestream turbulence intensity of 0.07%. The flow is weakly excited in a spanwise uniform manner at a frequency matching that of the most unstable disturbances in the natural separation bubble, leaving the base flow unmodified while enabling three-dimensional reconstructions of the dominant coherent structures using phase-locked planar particle image velocimetry measurements. Time-averaged flowfield reconstructions show a strongly two-dimensional topology of the separation bubble for both the natural and weakly excited cases. Analysis of the flow development demonstrates that, for both the natural and excited flows, spanwise-oriented and strongly two-dimensional shearlayer vortices form in the separation bubble upstream of the mean maximum height location. Spanwise undulations develop in the vortex filaments that continually intensify with downstream convection as a result of the streamwise forward sections of the filaments lifting away from the surface. This motion reorients the vorticity of the primary structures from the spanwise direction into the streamwise and wall-normal directions, forming hairpinlike structures above the vortex core region. These findings offer new quantitative insight into the vortex dynamics and breakdown process of the shear-layer vortices in two-dimensional, convectively unstable laminar separation bubbles subject to low freestream turbulence levels.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)493-505
Number of pages13
JournalAIAA Journal
Issue number2
Publication statusPublished - 2021


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