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Flow Past a Swept Wing with a Compliant Surface: Stabilizing the Attachment-Line Boundary Layer

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Many aquatic species such as dolphins and whales have fins, which can be modeled as swept wings. Some of these fins, such as the dorsal fin of a dolphin, are semi-rigid and therefore can be modeled as a rigid swept wing with a compliant surface. An understanding of the hydrodynamics of the flow past swept compliant surfaces is of great interest for understanding potential drag reduction mechanisms, especially since swept wings are widely used in hydrodynamic and aerodynamic design. In this paper, the flow past a swept wing with a compliant surface is modeled by an attachment-line boundary layer flow, which is an exact similarity solution of the Navier–Stokes equations, flowing past a compliant surface modeled as an elastic plate. The hydrodynamic stability of the coupled problem is studied using a new numerical framework based on exterior algebra. The basic instability of the attachment line boundary layer on a rigid surface is a traveling wave instability that propagates along the attachment line, and numerical results show that the compliance results in a substantial reduction in the instability region. Moreover, the results show that, although the flow-field is three-dimensional, the qualitative nature of the instability suppression is very similar to the qualitative reduction of instability of the two-dimensional Tollmien–Schlichting modes in the classical boundary-layer flow past a compliant surface.
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Document Type: Research Article

Publication date: May 1, 2003

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