Studies of the rotating-disk boundary-layer flow

University dissertation from Stockholm : KTH Royal Institute of Technology

Abstract: The rotating-disk boundary layer is not only a simpler model for the study of cross-flow instability than swept-wing boundary layers but also a useful simplification of many industrial-flow applications where rotating configurations are present. For the rotating disk, it has been suggested that a local absolute instability, leading to a global instability, is responsible for the small variation in the observed laminar-turbulent transition Reynolds number however the exact nature of the transition is still not fully understood. This thesis aims to clarify certain aspects of the transition process. Furthermore, the thesis considers the turbulent rotating-disk boundary layer, as an example of a class of three-dimensional turbulent boundary-layer flows.The rotating-disk boundary layer has been investigated in an experimental apparatus designed for low vibration levels and with a polished glass disk that gave a smooth surface. The apparatus provided a low-disturbance environment and velocity measurements of the azimuthal component were made with a single hot-wire probe. A new way to present data in the form of a probability density function (PDF) map of the azimuthal fluctuation velocity, which gives clear insights into the laminar-turbulent transition region, has been proposed. Measurements performed with various disk-edge conditions and edge Reynolds numbers showed that neither of these conditions a?ect the transition process significantly, and the Reynolds number for the onset of transition was observed to be highly reproducible.Laminar-turbulent transition for a ‘clean’ disk was compared with that for a disk with roughness elements located upstream of the critical Reynolds number for absolute instability. This showed that, even with minute surface roughness elements, strong convectively unstable stationary disturbances were excited. In this case, breakdown of the flow occurred before reaching the absolutely unstable region, i.e. through a convectively unstable route. For the rough disk, the breakdown location was shown to depend on the amplitude of individual stationary vortices. In contrast, for the smooth (clean-disk) condition, the amplitude of the stationary vortices did not fix the breakdown location, which instead was fixed by a well-defined Reynolds number. Furthermore, for the clean-disk case, travelling disturbances have been observed at the onset of nonlinearity, and the associated disturbance profile is in good agreement with the eigenfunction of the critical absolute instability.Finally, the turbulent boundary layer on the rotating disk has been investigated. The azimuthal friction velocity was directly measured from the azimuthal velocity profile in the viscous sublayer and the velocity statistics, normalized by the inner scale, are presented. The characteristics of this three-dimensional turbulent boundary-layer flow have been compared with those for the two-dimensional flow over a flat plate and close to the wall they are found to be quite similar but with rather large differences in the outer region.