Fuck Yeah Fluid Dynamics

Celebrating the physics of all that flows. Ask a question, submit a post idea or send an email. You can also follow FYFD on Twitter and Google+. FYFD is written by Nicole Sharp, PhD.

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Flow over a swept wing behaves very differently than a straight fixed wing or an airfoil. Instead of flowing straight along the chord of the wing in a two-dimensional fashion, air is also directed along the wing, parallel to the leading edge. The above oil flow visualization on a swept wing airplane model shows this curvature of streamlines.  As a result of this three-dimensional flow behavior, boundary layers on swept wings are subject to the crossflow instability, which manifests as co-rotating vortices aligned to within a few degrees of the streamlines. Triggering this boundary layer instability can lead to turbulence and higher drag for the aircraft.

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