2007 Volume 2 Issue 3 Pages 679-690
This paper describes an experimental investigation of the transitional mechanism of a wake generated behind a thin airfoil with a small angle of attack in a towing wind tunnel. A linear stability analysis shows that the wake is characterized by a region of absolute instability in the near wake (x=30mm) and one of convective instability further downstream. When the airfoil starts to run in the tunnel, boundary layers develop on the upper/lower airfoil surfaces with different thickness. Since the asymmetric wake is generated, starting vortices of a single row are observed first in the wake, which is different from the Karman vortex street. The experimental results show that time-harmonic fluctuations of the starting vortex sustain in the natural transition process due to a self sustained resonance in the absolutely unstable region behind the trailing edge. The wake profile in the saturation steady state yields the vortex street structure, where the fluctuation frequency defined as the fundamental unstable mode is found in the final saturation steady state. The growth of the fundamental unstable mode in the convectively unstable region suppresses the high frequency fluctuations associated with the starting vortex generation. On the other hand, low-frequency fluctuations in the quasi-steady state sustaining in the saturation state grow gradually during the vortex street formation, which lead to the vortex deformation downstream.