Secondary instability of crossflow vortices Academic Article uri icon


  • Crossflow-dominated swept-wing boundary layers are known to undergo a highly nonlinear transition process. In low-disturbance environments, the primary instability of these flows consists mainly of stationary streamwise vortices that modify the mean velocity field and hence the stability characteristics of the boundary layer. The result is amplitude saturation of the dominant stationary mode and strong spanwise modulation of the unsteady modes. Breakdown is not caused by the primary instability but instead by a high-frequency secondary instability of the shear layers of the distorted mean flow. The secondary instability has been observed in several previous experiments and several computational models for its behaviour exist. None of the experiments has been sufficiently detailed to allow either model validation or transition correlation. The present experiment conducted using a 45 swept wing in the low-disturbance Arizona State University Unsteady Wind Tunnel addresses the secondary instability in a detailed fashion under a variety of conditions. The results reveal that this instability is active in the breakdown of all cases investigated, and furthermore, it appears to be well-described by the computational models. 2005 Cambridge University Press.

published proceedings


author list (cited authors)

  • White, E. B., & Saric, W. S.

citation count

  • 182

complete list of authors

  • White, EB||Saric, WS

publication date

  • February 2005