An experimental study of boundary-layer turbulence in a free surface channel flow is described. Attention is concentrated on the effects of different surface roughness conditions on the turbulence structure in the boundary region. Hydrogen bubble flow tracers and medium high-speed motion photography were used to obtain an instantaneous visual and quantitative description of the flow field. In particular it proved possible to record instantaneous longitudinal and vertical velocity profiles from which distributions of the instantaneous Reynolds stress contribution were computed.
Two well-defined intermittent features of the flow structure were visually identified close to the boundary. These consisted of fluid ejection phases, previously reported by Kline et al. (1967) for smooth boundary flow, and fluid inrush phases. Conditional averaging of the instantaneous velocity data yielded quantitative confirmation that ejection phases corresponded with ejection of low momentum fluid outwards from the boundary whilst inrush phases were associated with the transport of high momentum fluid inwards towards the boundary. Inrush and ejection events were present irrespective of the surface roughness condition.
Conditional averaging also indicated that both inrush and ejection sequences correlate with an extremely high contribution to Reynolds stress and hence turbulence production close to the boundary. Indeed the present results, taken with those from previous studies, suggest that turbulence production is dominated by the joint contribution from the inrush and ejection events. It is emphasized that these structural features are intermittent, forming important linked elements of a randomly repeating cycle of wall-region turbulence production which is apparently driven by some violent three-dimensional instability mechanism.
Whilst the most coherent effects of the observed inrush phases appear to be mainly confined to a region close to the boundary, the influence of the ejection phases is far more extensive. The ejected low momentum fluid elements, drawn from the viscous sublayer and from between the interstices of the roughness elements, travel outwards from the boundary into the body of the flow and give rise to very large positive contributions to Reynolds stress at points remote from the boundary. This effect is sufficiently strong to prompt the suggestion that the ejection process could represent a universal and dominant mode of momentum transport outside the immediate wall region and possibly extending across the entire thickness of the boundary layer.
A structural model based on the present observations is seen to exhibit consistency with many commonly visualized features and recorded average properties of turbulent boundary-layer flows in general.