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On the scaling of air layer drag reduction

  • Brian R. Elbing (a1), Simo Mäkiharju (a2), Andrew Wiggins (a3), Marc Perlin (a3), David R. Dowling (a2) and Steven L. Ceccio (a2) (a3)...


Air-induced drag reduction was investigated on a 12.9 m long flat plate test model at a free stream speed of $6. 3~\mathrm{m} ~{\mathrm{s} }^{- 1} $ . Measurements of the local skin friction, phase velocity profiles (liquid and gas) and void fraction profiles were acquired at downstream distances to 11.5 m, which yielded downstream-distance-based Reynolds numbers above 80 million. Air was injected within the boundary layer behind a 13 mm backward facing step (BFS) while the incoming boundary layer was perturbed with vortex generators in various configurations immediately upstream of the BFS. Measurements confirmed that air layer drag reduction (ALDR) is sensitive to upstream disturbances, but a clean boundary layer separation line (i.e. the BFS) reduces such sensitivity. Empirical scaling of the experimental data was investigated for: (a) the critical air flux required to establish ALDR; (b) void fraction profiles; and (c) the interfacial velocity profiles. A scaling of the critical air flux for ALDR was developed from balancing shear-induced lift forces and buoyancy forces on a single bubble within a shear flow. The resulting scaling successfully collapses ALDR results from the current and past studies over a range of flow conditions and test model configurations. The interfacial velocity and void fraction profiles were acquired and scaled within the bubble drag reduction (BDR), ALDR and transitional ALDR regimes. The BDR interfacial velocity profile revealed that there was slip between phases. The ALDR results showed that the air layer thickness was nominally three-quarters of the total volumetric flux (per unit span) of air injected divided by the free stream speed. Furthermore, the air layer had an average void fraction of 0.75 and a velocity of approximately 0.2 times the free stream speed. Beyond the air layer was a bubbly mixture that scaled in a similar fashion to the BDR results. Transitional ALDR results indicate that this regime was comprised of intermittent generation and subsequent fragmentation of an air layer, with the resulting drag reduction determined by the fraction of time that an air layer was present.


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