Wake Downstream of a Flat Plate

Because there is no solid surface embedded in the wake, acting to retard the flow, we would expect the action of viscosity to cause the velocity within the wake, a long distance downstream of the plate, to closely match that of the unperturbed flow. In other words, we expect the fluid velocity within the wake to take the form

(8.83) | ||

(8.84) |

where

(8.85) |

Assuming that, within the wake,

(8.86) | ||

(8.87) |

where is the wake thickness, fluid continuity requires that

The flow external to the boundary layers, and the wake, is both uniform and essentially inviscid. Hence, according to Bernoulli's theorem, the pressure in this region is also uniform. [See Equation (8.22).] However, as we saw in Section 8.3, there is no -variation of the pressure across the boundary layers. It follows that the pressure is uniform within the layers. Thus, it is reasonable to assume that the pressure is also uniform within the wake, because the wake is formed via the convection of the boundary layers downstream of the plate. We conclude that

everywhere in the fluid, where is a constant.

The -component of the fluid equation of motion is written

(8.90) |

Making use of Equations (8.83)-(8.89), the previous expression reduces to

The boundary condition

ensures that the flow outside the wake remains unperturbed. Note that Equation (8.91) has the same mathematical form as a conventional diffusion equation, with playing the role of time, and playing the role of the diffusion coefficient. Hence, by analogy with the standard solution of the diffusion equation, we would expect (Riley 1974).

As can easily be demonstrated, the self-similar solution to Equation (8.91), subject to the boundary condition (8.92), is

(8.93) |

where

(8.94) |

and is a constant. It follows that

because, as is well-known, (Riley 1974). As expected, the width of the wake scales as .

The tangential velocity profile across the wake, which takes the form

is plotted in Figure 8.8. In addition, the vorticity profile across the wake, which is written

is shown in Figure 8.9. It can be seen that the profiles pictured in Figures 8.8 and 8.9 are essentially smoothed out versions of the boundary layer profiles shown in Figures 8.5 and 8.6, respectively.

Suppose that the plate and a portion of its trailing wake are enclosed by a cuboid control volume of unit depth (in the -direction) that extends from to and from to . (See Figure 8.10.) Here, and , where is the length of the plate, and the width of the wake. Hence, the control volume extends well upstream and downstream of the plate. Moreover, the volume is much wider than the wake.

Let us apply the integral form of the fluid equation of continuity to the control volume. For a steady state, this reduces to (see Section 1.9)

where is the bounding surface of the control volume. The normal fluid velocity is at , at , and at , as indicated in the figure. Hence, Equation (8.98) yields

(8.99) |

or

However, given that for , and because , it is a good approximation to replace the limits of integration on the left-hand side of the previous expression by . Thus, from Equation (8.95),

where is independent of . Note that the slight retardation of the flow inside the wake, due to the presence of the plate, which is parameterized by , necessitates a small lateral outflow, , in the region of the fluid external to the wake.

Let us now apply the integral form of the -component of the fluid equation of motion to the control volume. For a steady state, this reduces to (see Section 1.11)

(8.102) |

where is the net -directed force exerted on the fluid within the control volume by the plate. It follows, from Newton's third law of motion, that , where is the viscous drag force per unit width (in the -direction) acting on the plate in the -direction. In an incompressible fluid (see Section 1.6),

(8.103) |

Hence, we obtain

(8.104) |

because the pressure within the fluid is essentially uniform, the tangential fluid velocity at is , and is assumed to be negligible at . Making use of Equation (8.101), as well as the fact that is independent of , we get

(8.105) |

Here, we have neglected any terms that are second order in the small quantity . A comparison with Equation (8.79) reveals that

(8.106) |

or

(8.107) |

Hence, from Equations (8.96) and (8.97), the velocity and vorticity profiles across the layer are

(8.108) |

and

(8.109) |

respectively, where . Finally, because the previous analysis is premised on the assumption that , it is clear that the previous three expressions are only valid when (i.e., well downstream of the plate).

The previous analysis only holds when the flow within the wake is non-turbulent. Let us assume, by analogy with the discussion in the previous section, that this is the case as long as the Reynolds number of the wake, , remains less than some critical value that is approximately . Because the Reynolds number of the wake can be written , where is the Reynolds number of the external flow, we deduce that the wake becomes turbulent when . Hence, the wake is always turbulent sufficiently far downstream of the plate. Our analysis, which effectively assumes that the wake is non-turbulent in some region, immediately downstream of the plate, whose extent (in ) is large compared with , is thus only valid when .