Experimental studies of laminar axisymmetric starting plumes are performed to investigate the dependence of the flow on the Prandtl number, focusing on large Prandtl numbers. Thermal plumes are generated by a small electric heater in a glass tank filled with viscous oils. Prandtl numbers in the range of 7–104 were investigated. Experimental conditions are such that viscosity variations due to temperature differences are negligible. Plumes ascend in two different regimes as a function of distance to source. At short distances, the plumes accelerate owing to the development of the viscous boundary layer. At distances larger than about five times the heater size, the ascent velocity is constant and increases as a function of the Prandtl number, as predicted by theory for steady plumes. This velocity is, within experimental error, proportional to the steady plume centreline velocity.
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