An energy-efficient pathway to turbulent drag reduction

Published Online: November 4, 2021


Simulations and experiments at low Reynolds numbers have suggested that skin-friction drag generated by turbulent fluid flow over a surface can be decreased by oscillatory motion in the surface, with the amount of drag reduction predicted to decline with increasing Reynolds number. Here, we report direct measurements of substantial drag reduction achieved by using spanwise surface oscillations at high friction Reynolds numbers (Reτ) up to 12,800. The drag reduction occurs via two distinct physical pathways. The first pathway, as studied previously, involves actuating the surface at frequencies comparable to those of the small-scale eddies that dominate turbulence near the surface. We show that this strategy leads to drag reduction levels up to 25% at Reτ = 6,000, but with a power cost that exceeds any drag-reduction savings. The second pathway is new, and it involves actuation at frequencies comparable to those of the large-scale eddies farther from the surface. This alternate pathway produces drag reduction of 13% at Reτ = 12,800. It requires significantly less power and the drag reduction grows with Reynolds number, thereby opening up potential new avenues for reducing fuel consumption by transport vehicles and increasing power generation by wind turbines.

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Ivan Marusic, Dileep Chandran, Amirreza Rouhi, Matt K. Fu, David Wine, Brian Holloway, Daniel Chung & Alexander J. Smits

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