Unsteady interaction of crossflow instability with a forward-facing step

Alberto F. Rius-Vidales*, Marios Kotsonis

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticleScientificpeer-review

1 Citation (Scopus)
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Experiments have been conducted on a swept wing model in a low-turbulence wind tunnel at chord Reynolds number of to investigate the unsteady interaction of a forward-facing step (FFS) with incoming stationary crossflow (CF) vortices. The impact of varying the FFS height on the development and growth of primary and secondary CF disturbances and the ensuing laminar-turbulent transition is quantified through detailed hot-wire anemometry and infrared thermography measurements. The presence of the FFS results in either a critical (i.e. moderate transition advancement) or a supercritical behaviour (i.e. transition advancing abruptly to the FFS location). The arrival of the forced stationary CF vortices at the step is accompanied by their amplification. Unsteady analysis for the critical cases indicates temporal velocity fluctuations following closely the development of the baseline configuration (i.e. agreeing with the development of secondary instabilities). Consequently, laminar breakdown originates from the outer side of the upwelling region of the CF vortices. In contrast, for the supercritical FFS, the laminar breakdown unexpectedly originates from the inner side of the upwelling region. Evidence points to an unsteady mechanism possibly supported by locally enhanced spanwise-modulated shears and the recirculation region downstream of the FFS edge. This mechanism appears to govern the abrupt tripping of the flow in supercritical step cases. The findings in this work provide insight into the unsteady FFS-CF vortex interaction, which is pivotal to understanding the influence of an FFS on the laminar-turbulent boundary-layer transition in swept aerodynamic surfaces.

Original languageEnglish
Article numberA19
Number of pages32
JournalJournal of Fluid Mechanics
Publication statusPublished - 2022


  • Boundary layer stability
  • Transition to turbulence


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