Watching the Boundary Layer Go By

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In experiments, it can be difficult to track individual fluid structures as they flow downstream. Here researchers capture this spatial development by towing a 5-meter flat plate past a stationary camera while visualizing the boundary layer – the area close to the plate. The result is that we see turbulent eddies evolving as they advect downstream. Despite the complicated and seemingly chaotic flow field, the eye is able to pick out patterns and structure, like the merging of vortices that lifts eddies up into turbulent bulges and the entrainment of freestream fluid into the boundary layer as the eddies turn over or collapse. It is also a great demonstration of how the Reynolds number relates to the separation of scales in a turbulent flow. Notice how much richer the variety of length-scale is for the higher Reynolds number case and how thoroughly this mixes the boundary layer. (Video credit: J. H. Lee et al.)

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