Journal of Fluid Mechanics

The viscous flow on surfaces with longitudinal ribs

D. W.  Bechert a1 and M.  Bartenwerfer a1
a1 DLR, Abteilung Turbulenzforschung, Müller-Breslau-Straße 8, 1000 Berlin-West 12, West Germany

Article author query
bechert dw   [Google Scholar] 
bartenwerfer m   [Google Scholar] 


The viscous sublayer of a turbulent boundary layer on a surface with fine longitudinal ribs (riblets) is investigated theoretically. The mean flow constituent of this viscous flow is considered. Using conformal mapping, the velocity distributions on various surface configurations are calculated. The geometries that were investigated include sawtooth profiles with triangular and trapezoidal grooves as well as profiles with thin blade-shaped ribs, ribs with rounded edges and ribs having sharp ridges and U-shaped grooves. (This latter riblet configuration is also found on the tiny scales of fast sharks.) Our calculations enable us to determine the location of the origin of the velocity profile that lies somewhat below the tips of the ridges. The distance between this origin and the tip of the ridge we call ‘protrusion height’. The upper limit for the protrusion height is found to be 22% of the lateral rib spacing; the coefficient 0.22 being the value of the expression π−1 In 2. This limit is valid for two-dimensional riblet geometries. Analogous experiments with an electrolytic tank are carried out as an additional check on the theoretical calculations. This is also an easy way to determine experimentally the location of the origin of the velocity profile for arbitrary new riblet geometries. A possible connection between protrusion height and drag reduction in a turbulent boundary layer flow is discussed. Finally, the present theory also produces an orthogonal grid pattern above riblet surfaces which may be utilized in future numerical calculations of the whole turbulent boundary layer.

(Published Online April 26 2006)
(Received June 29 1988)
(Revised January 13 1989)