Numerical investigation of the nonlinear transition regime in a Mach 2 boundary layer

Christian S.J. Mayer, Stefan Wernz, Hermann F. Fasel

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47 Scopus citations


The transition process in a supersonic flat-plate boundary layer at Mach 2 is investigated numerically using linear stability theory (LST) and direct numerical simulations (DNS). The experimental investigations by Kosinov and his co-workers serve as a reference and provide the physical conditions for the numerical set-up. In these experiments, the weakly nonlinear regime of transition was studied. This led to the discovery of asymmetric subharmonic resonance triads, which appear to be relevant for transition in a Mach 2 boundary layer. These triads were composed of one primary oblique wave of frequency 20kHz and two oblique subharmonic waves of frequency 10kHz. While the experimentalists have focused on this new breakdown mechanism, we have found that the experimental data also indicate the presence of another mechanism related to oblique breakdown. This might be the first experimental evidence of the oblique breakdown mechanism in a supersonic boundary layer. With the simulations presented here, the possible presence of oblique breakdown mechanisms in the experiments is explored by deliberately suppressing subharmonic resonances in the DNS and by comparing the numerical results with the experimental data. The DNS results show excellent agreement with the experimental measurements for both linear and nonlinear transition stages. Most importantly, the results clearly show the characteristic features of oblique breakdown. In addition, we also investigated the subharmonic transition route using LST and DNS. When forcing both the subharmonic and the fundamental frequencies in the DNS, a subharmonic resonance mechanism similar to that in the experiments can be observed.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)113-149
Number of pages37
JournalJournal of Fluid Mechanics
StatePublished - Feb 10 2011


  • boundary layer stability
  • compressible boundary layers
  • transition to turbulence

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Condensed Matter Physics
  • Mechanics of Materials
  • Mechanical Engineering


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