A new formulation of the stability of boundary-layer flows in pressure gradients is presented, taking into account the spatial development of the flow and utilizing a special coordinate transformation. The formulation assumes that disturbance wavelength and eigenfunction vary downstream no more rapidly than the boundary-layer thickness, and includes all terms nominally of order R−1 in the boundary-layer Reynolds number R. In Blasius flow, the present approach is consistent with that of Bertolotti et al. (1992) to O(R−1) but simpler (i.e. has fewer terms), and may best be seen as providing a parametric differential equation which can be solved without having to march in space. The computed neutral boundaries depend strongly on distance from the surface, but the one corresponding to the inner maximum of the streamwise velocity perturbation happens to be close to the parallel flow (Orr-Sommerfeld) boundary. For this quantity, solutions for the Falkner-Skan flows show the effects of spatial growth to be striking only in the presence of strong adverse pressure gradients. As a rational analysis to O(R−1) demands inclusion of higher-order corrections on the mean flow, an illustrative calculation of one such correction, due to the displacement effect of the boundary layer, is made, and shown to have a significant destabilizing influence on the stability boundary in strong adverse pressure gradients. The effect of non-parallelism on the growth of relatively high frequencies can be significant at low Reynolds numbers, but is marginal in other cases. As an extension of the present approach, a method of dealing with non-similar flows is also presented and illustrated.
However, inherent in the transformation underlying the present approach is a lower-order non-parallel theory, which is obtained by dropping all terms of nominal order R−1 except those required for obtaining the lowest-order solution in the critical and wall layers. It is shown that a reduced Orr-Sommerfeld equation (in transformed coordinates) already contains the major effects of non-parallelism.
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