Journal of Fluid Mechanics

Circulation and formation number of laminar vortex rings

a1 Faculty of Engineering, Tel Aviv University, Tel Aviv 69978, Israel
a2 Graduate Aeronautical Laboratories, California Institute of Technology, Pasadena, CA, USA


The formation time scale of axisymmetric vortex rings is studied numerically for relatively long discharge times. Experimental findings on the existence and universality of a formation time scale, referred to as the ‘formation number’, are confirmed. The formation number is indicative of the time at which a vortex ring acquires its maximal circulation. For vortex rings generated by impulsive motion of a piston, the formation number was found to be approximately four, in very good agreement with experimental results. Numerical extensions of the experimental study to other cases, including cases with thick shear layers, show that the scaled circulation of the pinched-off vortex is relatively insensitive to the details of the formation process, such as the velocity programme, velocity profile, vortex generator geometry and the Reynolds number. This finding might also indicate that the properly scaled circulation of steady vortex rings varies very little. The formation number does depend on the velocity profile. Non-impulsive velocity programmes slightly increase the formation number, while non-uniform velocity profiles may decrease it significantly. In the case of a parabolic velocity profile of the discharged flow, for example, the formation number decreases by a factor as large as four. These findings indicate that a major source of the experimentally found small variations in the formation number is the different evolution of the velocity profile of the discharged flow.

(Received January 27 1997)
(Revised July 24 1998)