Formation of turbulent vortex breakdown: Intermittency, criticality, and global instability

K. Oberleithner, C. O. Paschereit, R. Seele, I. Wygnanski

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

112 Scopus citations


This study provides quantitative insight into the formation of vortex breakdown and the onset of global instability in a turbulent swirling jet. A water jet is guided through a rotating honeycomb that imparts the rotational motion, passed through a contraction, and discharged into a large water tank. The flow states evolving at increasing swirl are mapped out via time-resolved particle image velocimetry. The experimental results scale properly with the swirl number based on the axial momentum flux when the commonly used boundary-layer approximations are omitted. The instantaneous velocity field reveals that vortex breakdown occurs intermittently at a wide range of swirl numbers before it appears in the mean flow. At this intermittent state, the evolving breakdown bubble oscillates heavily between two streamwise locations where the vortex core is subcritical. Upon further increasing the swirl, the breakdown oscillations decay and a region of reversed flow appears in the mean flowfield. The formation of this socalled axisymmetric breakdown state is accompanied by a supercritical-to-subcritical transition of the inflowing vortex core. The reversed flow region is found to grow linearly with increasing swirl until the flow undergoes a supercritical Hopf bifurcation to a global single-helical mode, and vortex breakdown adopts a spiral shape. The global mode shape is extracted from the particle image velocimetry snapshots by means of proper orthogonal decomposition and Fourier analysis. The present experiment reveals that, at gradually increasing swirl, the jet first transitions to an axisymmetric breakdown state that remains globally stable until a critical swirl number is exceeded. This sequence of flow states agrees well with the transient formation of vortex breakdown observed in laminar flows.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)1437-1452
Number of pages16
JournalAIAA journal
Issue number7
StatePublished - Jul 2012

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Aerospace Engineering


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