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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Posts tagged "wake"

Ducks, boats, and other objects moving along water create a distinctive V-shaped pattern known as a Kelvin wake. As the boat moves, it creates disturbance waves of many different wavelengths. The constructive interference of the slower waves compresses them into the shock wave that forms either arm of the V. Sometimes evenly spaced wavelets occur along the arms as well. Between the arms are curved waves that result from other excited wave components. The pattern was first derived by Lord Kelvin as universally true at all speeds - at least for an ideal fluid - but practically speaking, water depth and propeller effects can make a difference. Recently, some physicists have even suggested that above a certain point, an object’s speed can affect the wake shape, but this remains contentious. (Image credit: K. Leidorf; via Colossal; submitted by Peter)

A simple cylinder in a steady flow creates a beautiful wake pattern known as a von Karman vortex street. The image above shows several examples of this pattern. Flow is from bottom to top, and the Reynolds number is increasing from left to right. In the experiment, this increasing Reynolds number corresponds to increasing the flow velocity because the cylinder size, fluid, and temperature were all fixed. As the Reynolds number first increases, the cylinder begins to shed vortices. The vortices alternate the side of the cylinder from which they are shed as well as alternating in their sense of rotation (clockwise or counterclockwise). Further increasing the Reynolds number increases the complexity of the wake, with more and more vortices being shed. The vortex street is a beautiful example of how fluid behavior is similar across a range of scales from the laboratory to our planet’s atmosphere.  (Image credit: Z. Trávníček et. al)

Today we have some holiday-themed fluid dynamics: visualization of flow around Santa’s sleigh! This is a flowing soap film visualization at a low speed (author Nick Moore has some other speeds as well). Santa’s sleigh is what aerodynamicists call a bluff body—a shape that is not streamlined or aerodynamic—and sheds a complicated wake of vortices. Like any object moving through a fluid, Santa’s sleigh generates drag forces made up of several components. There is viscous drag, which comes from friction between the sleigh’s surface and the fluid, and form drag (or pressure drag), which comes from the shape of the sleigh. That wake full of complicated vortices significantly increases the sleigh’s pressure drag, requiring Rudolph and the other reindeer to provide more thrust to counter the sleigh’s drag. Speaking thereof, the visualization does not take into account the aerodynamics of the reindeer, who, in addition to providing the sleigh’s thrust, would also affect the flowfield upstream of the sleigh. This post is part of this week’s holiday-themed post series. (Video credit: N. Moore)

Flow over blunt bodies produces a series of alternating vortices that are shed behind an object. The image above shows the turbulent wake of a cylinder, with flow from right to left. Red and blue dyes are used to visualize the flow. This flow structure is known as a von Karman vortex street, named for aerodynamicist Theodore von Karman. The meander of the wake is caused by the shed vortices, each of which has a rotational sense opposite its predecessor. The rapid mixing of the two dyes is a result of the flow’s turbulence. In low Reynolds number laminar cases of this flow the structure of individual vortices is more visible. Similar flow structures are seen behind islands and in the wakes of flapping objects. (Photo credit: K. Manhart et al.)

Sunglint on the ocean surface can sometimes reveal different patterns in wave conditions. In the satellite photo above, we see the Canary Islands with wavering silvery wakes stretching to the southwest. The predominant wind direction over the islands is from the northeast. The rocky islands act as a wind-break, redirecting the flow and shadowing the ocean in their wake from much of it. As a result, fewer waves are stirred up in the islands’ wakes, thereby changing the local surface  reflection properties and making this image possible. (Photo credit: NASA Earth Observatory)

Even something as simple as a falling sphere meeting a wall is composed of beautiful fluid motion. In Figure 1 above, we see side-view images of a sphere at low Reynolds number falling toward a wall over several time. Initially an axisymmetric vortex ring is visible in the sphere’s wake; when the sphere touches the wall, secondary vortices form and the wake vortex moves down and out along the wall in an axisymmetric fashion (Figure 2, top view). At higher Reynolds numbers, like those in Figure 3, this axisymmetric spreading of the vortex ring develops an instability and ultimately breaks down. (Photo credit: T. Leweke et al.)

This gorgeous visualization shows the flow behind a flapping foil. Flow in the water tunnel is from right to left, with dye introduced to show streamlines. A flapping foil is a good base model for most flapping flight as well as finned swimming - anything that oscillates to create thrust. As the foil flaps, vorticity is generated and shed along the trailing edge, creating a regularly patterned wake of trailing vortices. (Video credit: R. Godoy-Diana)

Flapping flight, despite being utilized by creatures of many sizes in nature, remains remarkably difficult to engineer. In this experiment, a simple rectangular wing is flapped up and down sinusoidally. Above a critical flapping frequency, the wing—which is free to rotate—accelerates from rest to a constant speed. This rotation is equivalent to forward flight. The upper image shows a photo and schematic of the setup, while the lower images shows flow visualization of the wing’s wake. The wing moves to the right, shedding thrust-providing periodic vortices in its wake. (Photo credits: N. Vandenberge et al.)

This image shows oil-flow visualization of a cylindrical roughness element on a flat plate in supersonic flow. The flow direction is from left to right. In this technique, a thin layer of high-viscosity oil is painted over the surface and dusted with green fluorescent powder. Once the supersonic tunnel is started, the model gets injected in the flow for a few seconds, then retracted. After the run, ultraviolet lighting illuminates the fluorescent powder, allowing researchers to see how air flowed over the surface. Image (a) shows the flat plate without roughness; there is relatively little variation in the oil distribution. Image (b) includes a 1-mm high, 4-mm wide cylinder. Note bow-shaped disruption upstream of the roughness and the lines of alternating light and dark areas that wrap around the roughness and stretch downstream. These lines form where oil has been moved from one region and concentrated in another, usually due to vortices in the roughness wake. Image (c) shows the same behavior amplified yet further by the 4-mm high, 4-mm wide cylinder that sticks up well beyond the edge of the boundary layer. Such images, combined with other methods of flow visualization, help scientists piece together the structures that form due to surface roughness and how these affect downstream flow on vehicles like the Orion capsule during atmospheric re-entry. (Photo credit: P. Danehy et al./NASA Langley #)

The von Karman vortex street of shed vortices that form the wake of a stationary cylinder are a classic image of fluid dynamics. Here we see a very different wake structure, also made up of vortices shed from a cylindrical body.  This wake is formed by two identical cylinders, each rotating at the same rotational rate. Their directions of rotation are such that the cylinder surfaces in between the two cylinders move opposite the flow direction (i.e. top cylinder clockwise, bottom anti-clockwise). This results in a symmetric wake, but the symmetry can easily be broken by shifting the rotation rates out of phase. (Photo credit: S. Kumar and B. Gonzalez)