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Turbulent flow between a rotating and a stationary disk is studied. Besides its fundamental importance as a three-dimensional prototype flow, such flow fields are frequently encountered in rotor–stator configurations in turbomachinery applications. A direct numerical simulation is therefore performed by integrating the time-dependent Navier–Stokes equations until a statistically steady state is reached and with the aim of providing both long-time statistics and an exposition of coherent structures obtained by conditional sampling. The simulated flow has local Reynolds number r2ω/v = 4 × 105 and local gap ratio s/r = 0.02, where ω is the angular velocity of the rotating disk, r the radial distance from the axis of rotation, v the kinematic viscosity of the fluid, and s the gap width.
The three components of the mean velocity vector and the six independent Reynolds stresses are compared with experimental measurements in a rotor–stator flow configuration. In the numerically generated flow field, the structural parameter a1 (i.e. the ratio of the magnitude of the shear stress vector to twice the mean turbulent kinetic energy) is lower near the two disks than in two-dimensional boundary layers. This characteristic feature is typical for three-dimensional boundary layers, and so are the misalignment between the shear stress vector and the mean velocity gradient vector, although the degree of misalignment turns out to be smaller in the present flow than in unsteady three-dimensional boundary layer flow. It is also observed that the wall friction at the rotating disk is substantially higher than at the stationary disk.
Coherent structures near the disks are identified by means of the λ2 vortex criterion in order to provide sufficient information to resolve a controversy regarding the roles played by sweeps and ejections in shear stress production. An ensemble average of the detected structures reveals that the coherent structures in the rotor–stator flow are similar to the ones found in two-dimensional flows. It is shown, however, that the three-dimensionality of the mean flow reduces the inter-vortical alignment and the tendency of structures of opposite sense of rotation to overlap. The coherent structures near the disks generate weaker sweeps (i.e. quadrant 4 events) than structures in conventional two-dimensional boundary layers. This reduction in the quadrant 4 contribution from the coherent structures is believed to explain the reduced efficiency of the mean flow in producing Reynolds shear stress.