A new technique for generating a pair of line vortices in the laboratory has been developed. The mean flow of these vortices is highly two-dimensional, although most of the flow field is turbulent. This two-dimensionality permits the study of vortex motions in the absence of the Crow mutual induction instability and other three-dimensional effects. The vortices are generated in a water tank of dimensions 15 × 122 × 244 cm. They propagate vertically and their axes span the 15 cm width of the tank. One wall of the tank is transparent, and the flow is visualized using fluorescein dye. High speed photography is used to study both the transition to turbulence during the vortex formation process and the interaction of the turbulent vortices with a simulated ground plane.
Transition occurs first in an annular region surrounding the core of each vortex, starting with a shear-layer instability on the rolled-up vortex sheet. The turbulent region then grows both radially inwards and radially outwards until the entire recirculation cell is turbulent. A ‘relaminarization’ of the vortex core appears to take place somewhat later.
The interaction of the vortex pair with the ground plane does not follow the predictions of potential-flow theory for line vortices. Although the total circulation is apparently conserved, the vortices remain at a larger distance from the ground than is expected and eventually ‘rebound’ or move away from the ground. Differences between a free-surface boundary condition and a smooth or rough ground plane are discussed. The ground-plane interaction is qualitatively very similar to that of aircraft trailing vortices observed in recent flight tests.