Spatial optimal growth in three-dimensional boundary layers

Authors: Tempelmann, D., Hanifi, A., Henningson, D.S.H.
Document Type: Article
Pubstate: Published
Journal: J. Fluid Mech.
Volume: 646   5-37
Year: 2010


A parabolized set of linear equations is derived, which, in combination with the proposed solution procedure, allows for the study of both non-modal and modal disturbance growth in three-dimensional boundary layers. The method is applicable to disturbance waves whose lines of constant phase are closely aligned with the external streamline. Moreover, strongly growing disturbances may fall outside the scope of application. These equations are used in conjunction with a variational approach to compute optimal disturbances in Falkner–Skan–Cooke boundary layers subject to adverse and favourable pressure gradients. The disturbances associated with maximum energy growth initially take the form of streamwise vortices which are tilted against the mean crossflow shear. While travelling downstream these vortical structures rise into an upright position and evolve into bent streaks. The physical mechanism responsible for non-modal growth in three-dimensional boundary layers is therefore identified as a combination of the lift-up effect and the Orr mechanism. Optimal disturbances smoothly evolve into crossflow modes when entering the supercritical domain of the flow. Non-modal growth is thus found to initiate modal instabilities in three-dimensional boundary layers. Optimal growth is first studied for stationary disturbances. Influences of parameters such as sweep angle, spanwise wavenumber and position of inception are studied, and the initial optimal amplification of stationary crossflow modes because of non-modal growth is investigated. Finally, general disturbances are considered, and envelopes yielding the maximum growth at each position are computed. In general, substantial growth is already found upstream of the first neutral point. The computations show that at supercritical conditions, maximum growth of optimal disturbances in accelerated boundary layers can exceed the growth predicted for modal instabilities by several orders of magnitude.