Role of Klebanoff modes in active flow control of separation: Direct numerical simulations

Shirzad Hosseinverdi, Hermann F. Fasel

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

29 Scopus citations


Our previous research has shown that an active flow control strategy using two-dimensional (2-D) harmonic blowing and suction with properly chosen frequency and amplitude can significantly reduce the separation region, delay transition to turbulence and can even relaminarize the flow. How such effective flow control for transition delay and relaminarization is affected by free-stream turbulence (FST) remains an open question. In order to answer this question, highly resolved direct numerical simulations (DNS) are carried out where very low-amplitude isotropic FST fluctuations are introduced at the inflow boundary of the computational domain. With FST the effectiveness of the flow control is not diminished, and the extent of the separated flow region is reduced by the same amount as for the zero FST case. However, a striking difference observed in the DNS is the fact that in the presence of even very low levels of FST, the flow transitions shortly downstream of the reattachment location of the bubble, contrary to the case without FST. It appears that this different behaviour for even very small levels of FST is caused by an interaction between the high-amplitude 2-D disturbances introduced by the flow control forcing and 3-D Klebanoff modes (K-modes) that are generated by the FST. The streamwise elongated streaks due to the K-modes cause a spanwise-periodic modulation of the basic flow and subsequently of the primary 2-D wave. The disturbances associated with this modulation exhibit strong growth and initiate the breakdown process to turbulence. Linear secondary instability investigations with respect to low-frequency 3-D disturbances are carried out based on the linearized Navier-Stokes equations. The response of the forced flow to the low-frequency 3-D disturbances reveals that the time-periodic base flow is unstable with respect to a wide range of 3-D modes. In particular, the wavelength associated with the spanwise spacing of the K-mode falls into the range of, and is in fact very close to, the most unstable 3-D disturbances. Results from the secondary instability analysis and the comparison with DNS results, support the conjecture that the forcing amplitude has a major impact on the onset and amplification rate of the K-modes: lowering the forcing amplitude postpones the onset of the growth of the K-modes and reduces the growth rate of the K-modes for a given FST intensity. The net effect of these two events is a delay of the transition onset. Nevertheless, the instability mechanism that governs the transition process is the same as previously identified, i.e. interaction of the K-mode and 2-D primary wave. Furthermore, for low levels of FST, the amplitude of the low-frequency K-modes scales linearly with the FST intensity in the approach boundary layer up to the secondary instability regime.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)954-983
Number of pages30
JournalJournal of Fluid Mechanics
StatePublished - Sep 10 2018


  • boundary layer separation
  • flow control
  • transition to turbulence

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Condensed Matter Physics
  • Mechanics of Materials
  • Mechanical Engineering


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