Journal of Fluid Mechanics

Streamwise vortices and transition to turbulence

James M.  Hamilton a1p1 and Frederick H.  Abernathy a1
a1 Division of Applied Sciences, Harvard University, Cambridge, MA 02138, USA

Article author query
hamilton jm   [Google Scholar] 
abernathy fh   [Google Scholar] 


A series of experiments was conducted to determine the conditions under which streamwise vortices can cause transition to turbulence in shear flows. A specially designed obstacle was used to produce a single vortex in a water-table flow, and the design of this obstacle is discussed. Laser-Doppler velocimetry measurements of the streamwise and crossflow velocity fields were made in transitional and non-transitional flows, and flow visualization was also used. It was found that strong vortices (vortices with large circulation) lead to turbulence while weaker vortices do not. Determination of a critical value of vortex strength for transition, however, was complicated by ambiguities in calculating the vortex circulation. The profiles of streamwise velocity were found to be inflexional for both transitional and non-transitional flows. Transition in single-vortex and multi-vortex flows was compared, and no qualitative differences were observed, suggesting no significant vortex interactions affecting transition.

(Published Online April 26 2006)
(Received September 19 1992)

p1 Present address: 3715 Linwood Avenue, Oakland, CA 94602, USA.