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Published September 1946 | Published
Report Open

Investigation of the Stability of the Laminar Boundary Layer in a Compressible Fluid


In the present report the stability of two-dimensional laminar flows of a gas is investigated by the method of small perturbations. The chief emphasis is placed on the case of the laminar boundary layer. Part I of the present report deals with the general mathematical theory. The general equations governing one normal mode of the small velocity and temperature disturbances are derived and studied in great detail. It is found that for Reynolds numbers of the order of those encountered in most aerodymnic problems, the temperature disturbances have only a negligible effect on those particular velocity solutions which depend primarily on the viscosity coefficient ("viscous solutions"). Indeed, the latter are actually of the same form in the compressible fluid as in the incompressible fluid, at least to the first approximation. Because of this fact, the mathematical analysis is greatly simplified. The final equation determining the characteristic values of the stability problem depends on the "inviscid solutions" and the function of Tietjens in a manner very similar to the case of the incompressible fluid. The second viscosity coefficient and the coefficient of heat conductivity do not enter the problem; only the ordinary coefficient of viscosity near the solid surface is involved. Part II deals wlth the limiting case of infinite Reynolds numbers. The study of energy relations is very much emphasized. It is shown that the disturbance will gain energy from the main flow if the gradient of the product of mean density and mean vorticity near the solid surface has a sign opposite to that near the outer edge of the boundary layer. A general stability criterion has been obtained in terms of the gradient of the product of density and vorticity, analogous to the Rayleigh-Tollmien criterion for the case of an incompressible fluid. If this gradient vanishes for some value of the velocity ratio of the main flow exceeding 1 - 1/M (where M is the free stream Mach number), then neutral and self-excited "subsonic" disturbances exist in the inviscid fluid. (The subsonic disturbances die out rapidly with distance from the solid surface.) The conditions for the existence of other types of disturbance have not yet been established to this extent of exactness. A formula has been worked out to give the amplitude ratio of incoming and reflected sound waves. It is found in the present investigation that when the solid boundary is heated, the boundary layer flow is destabilized through the change in the distribution of the product of density and vorticity, but stabilized through the increase of kinematic viscosity near the solid boundary. When the solid boundary is cooled, the situation is just the reverse. The actual extent to which these two effects counteract each other can only be settled by actual computation or some approximate estimstes of the minimum critical Reylolds number. This question will be investigated in a subsequent report. Part III deals with the stability of laminar flows in a perfect gas with the effect of viscosity included. The method for the numerical computation of the stability limit is outlined; detailed numerical calculations will be carried out in a subsequent report.

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August 21, 2023
October 23, 2023