To investigate the phenomena of skin-friction drag reduction in a turbulent boundary layer (TBL) at large scales and high Reynolds numbers, a set of experiments has been conducted at the US Navy's William B. Morgan Large Cavitation Channel (LCC). Drag reduction was achieved by injecting gas (air) from a line source through the wall of a nearly zero-pressure-gradient TBL that formed on a flat-plate test model that was either hydraulically smooth or fully rough. Two distinct drag-reduction phenomena were investigated; bubble drag reduction (BDR) and air-layer drag reduction (ALDR).
The streamwise distribution of skin-friction drag reduction was monitored with six skin-friction balances at downstream-distance-based Reynolds numbers to 220 million and at test speeds to 20.0ms−1. Near-wall bulk void fraction was measured at twelve streamwise locations with impedance probes, and near-wall (0 < Y < 5mm) bubble populations were estimated with a bubble imaging system. The instrument suite was used to investigate the scaling of BDR and the requirements necessary to achieve ALDR.
Results from the BDR experiments indicate that: significant drag reduction (>25%) is limited to the first few metres downstream of injection; marginal improvement was possible with a porous-plate versus an open-slot injector design; BDR has negligible sensitivity to surface tension; bubble size is independent of surface tension downstream of injection; BDR is insensitive to boundary-layer thickness at the injection location; and no synergetic effect is observed with compound injection. Using these data, previous BDR scaling methods are investigated, but data collapse is observed only with the ‘initial zone’ scaling, which provides little information on downstream persistence of BDR.
ALDR was investigated with a series of experiments that included a slow increase in the volumetric flux of air injected at free-stream speeds to 15.3ms−1. These results indicated that there are three distinct regions associated with drag reduction with air injection: Region I, BDR; Region II, transition between BDR and ALDR; and Region III, ALDR. In addition, once ALDR was established: friction drag reduction in excess of 80% was observed over the entire smooth model for speeds to 15.3ms−1; the critical volumetric flux of air required to achieve ALDR was observed to be approximately proportional to the square of the free-stream speed; slightly higher injection rates were required for ALDR if the surface tension was decreased; stable air layers were formed at free-stream speeds to 12.5ms−1 with the surface fully roughened (though approximately 50% greater volumetric air flux was required); and ALDR was sensitive to the inflow conditions. The sensitivity to the inflow conditions can be mitigated by employing a small faired step (10mm height in the experiment) that helps to create a fixed separation line.