Experimental characterization of an unsteady laminar separation bubble on a pitching wing

Adrian Grille Guerra, Christoph Mertens, Jesse Little, Bas van Oudheusden

Research output: Contribution to journalReview articlepeer-review


The laminar separation bubble (LSB) that forms on the suction side of a modified NACA 64 3-618 airfoil at a chord-based Reynolds number of Re = 200 , 000 is studied using wind tunnel experiments. First, the LSB is characterized over a range of static angles of attack, in terms of the locations of separation, transition and reattachment—using surface pressure measurements, particle image velocimetry (PIV) and infrared thermography (IT). For the conditions tested, excellent agreement between the techniques is obtained. Subsequently, a pitching motion is imposed on the wind tunnel model, with reduced frequencies up to k = 0.25. While surface pressure measurements and PIV are not affected by the change in experimental conditions, the infrared approach is impaired by the thermal response of the surface. To overcome this, an extension of the differential infrared thermography (DIT) method for detecting the three characteristics of an unsteady LSB is considered. All three experimental techniques indicate a hysteresis in bubble location between the pitch up and pitch down phases of the motion, caused by the effect of the aerodynamic unsteadiness on the adverse pressure gradient. However, the DIT measurements suggest a larger hysteresis, which is attributed to the thermal response time of the model surface. The experimental results measured with the pressure sensors reveal that the hysteresis in bubble location is larger than the hysteresis in lift, indicating that the observed bubble hysteresis is not purely due to instantaneous flow conditions, but has an inherent component as well.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Article number16
JournalExperiments in Fluids
Issue number1
StatePublished - Jan 2023

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Computational Mechanics
  • Mechanics of Materials
  • Physics and Astronomy(all)
  • Fluid Flow and Transfer Processes


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