Journal of Fluid Mechanics


Enhancing the absolute instability of a boundary layer by adding a far-away plate


a1 Department of Mathematics, Keele University, Keele, ST5 5BG, UK


When a solid plate, with a boundary condition of no normal flow through it, is introduced parallel to a shear layer it is normally expected to exert a stabilizing influence on any inviscid linearly unstable waves. In this paper we present an example of an absolutely unstable boundary-layer flow that can be made more absolutely unstable by the addition of a plate parallel to the original flow and far from the boundary layer itself. In particular, the addition of the plate is found to increase the growth rate of the absolute instability of the original boundary-layer flow by an order of magnitude for long waves. This phenomenon is illustrated using piecewise-linear inviscid basic-flow profiles, for which analytical dispersion relations have been derived. Long-wave stability theories have been developed in several limits clarifying the mechanisms underlying the behaviour and establishing its generic nature. The class of flows expected to exhibit this phenomenon includes a class found recently to have an exponential growth of disturbances in the wall-normal direction, owing to the approach of certain saddle-points to certain branch-cuts in the complex-wavenumber plane. The theory also suggests that a convectively unstable flow in an infinite domain can be converted, in some circumstances, into an absolutely unstable flow when the domain is made finite by the addition of a plate, however far away the plate is.

(Received August 15 2005)

(Revised November 03 2006)