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Influence of localised smooth steps on the instability of a boundary layer

  • Hui Xu (a1), Jean-Eloi W. Lombard (a1) and Spencer J. Sherwin (a1)

We consider a smooth, spanwise-uniform forward-facing step defined by a Gauss error function of height 4 %–30 % and four times the width of the local boundary layer thickness $\unicode[STIX]{x1D6FF}_{99}$ . The boundary layer flow over a smooth forward-facing stepped plate is studied with particular emphasis on stabilisation and destabilisation of the two-dimensional Tollmien–Schlichting (TS) waves and subsequently on three-dimensional disturbances at transition. The interaction between TS waves at a range of frequencies and a base flow over a single or two forward-facing smooth steps is conducted by linear analysis. The results indicate that for a TS wave with a frequency ${\mathcal{F}}\in [140,160]$ ( ${\mathcal{F}}=\unicode[STIX]{x1D714}\unicode[STIX]{x1D708}/U_{\infty }^{2}\times 10^{6}$ , where $\unicode[STIX]{x1D714}$ and $U_{\infty }$ denote the perturbation angle frequency and free-stream velocity magnitude, respectively, and $\unicode[STIX]{x1D708}$ denotes kinematic viscosity), the amplitude of the TS wave is attenuated in the unstable regime of the neutral stability curve corresponding to a flat plate boundary layer. Furthermore, it is observed that two smooth forward-facing steps lead to a more acute reduction of the amplitude of the TS wave. When the height of a step is increased to more than 20 % of the local boundary layer thickness for a fixed width parameter, the TS wave is amplified, and thereby a destabilisation effect is introduced. Therefore, the stabilisation or destabilisation effect of a smooth step is typically dependent on its shape parameters. To validate the results of the linear stability analysis, where a TS wave is damped by the forward-facing smooth steps direct numerical simulation (DNS) is performed. The results of the DNS correlate favourably with the linear analysis and show that for the investigated frequency of the TS wave, the K-type transition process is altered whereas the onset of the H-type transition is delayed. The results of the DNS suggest that for the perturbation with the non-dimensional frequency parameter ${\mathcal{F}}=150$ and in the absence of other external perturbations, two forward-facing smooth steps of height 5 % and 12 % of the boundary layer thickness delayed the H-type transition scenario and completely suppressed for the K-type transition. By considering Gaussian white noise with both fixed and random phase shifts, it is demonstrated by DNS that transition is postponed in time and space by two forward-facing smooth steps.

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