A new approximate theory is proposed for treating the flow past smoothly contoured two-dimensional bluff bodies in the intermediate Reynolds number range O(1) < Re < 0(102), where the displacement effect of the thick viscous layer near the surface of the body is large and a steady laminar wake is present. The theory is based on a new pressure hypothesis which enables one to take account of the displacement interaction and centrifugal effects in thick viscous layers using conventional first-order boundary-layer equations. The basic question asked is how the wall pressure gradient in ordinary boundary -layer theory must be modified if the pressure gradient along the displacement surface using the Prandtl pressure hypothesis is to be equal to the pressure gradient along this surface using a higher-order approximation to the Navier-Stokes equation in which centrifugal forces are considered. The inclusion of the normal pressure field with displacement interaction is shown to be equivalent to stretching the streamwise body co-ordinate in first-order boundary-layer theory such that the streamwise pressure gradient as a function of distance along the original and displacement body surfaces are equal.
While the new theory is of a non-rigorous nature, it yields results for the location of separation and detailed surface pressure and vorticity distribution which are in remarkably good agreement with the large body of available numerical Navier-Stokes solutions. A novel feature of the new boundary-value problem is the development of a simple but accurate approximate method for determining the inviscid flow past an arbitrary two-dimensional displacement body with its wake.