Hofferth, Jerrod William (2013-05). Boundary-Layer Stability and Transition on a Flared Cone in a Mach 6 Quiet Wind Tunnel. Doctoral Dissertation. Thesis uri icon


  • A key remaining challenge in the design of hypersonic vehicles is the incomplete understanding of the process of boundary-layer transition. Turbulent heating rates are substantially higher than those for a laminar boundary layer, and large uncertainties in transition prediction therefore demand conservative, inefficient designs for thermal protection systems. It is only through close collaboration between theory, experiment, and computation that the state of the art can be advanced, but experiments relevant to flight require ground-test facilities with very low disturbance levels. To enable this work, a unique Mach 6 low-disturbance wind tunnel, previously of NASA Langley Research Center, is established within a new pressure-vacuum blow-down infrastructure at Texas A&M. A 40-second run time at constant conditions enables detailed measurements for comparison with computation. The freestream environment is extensively characterized, with a large region of low-disturbance flow found to be reliably present for unit Reynolds numbers Re < 11x10^6 m-1. Experiments are performed on a 5o half-angle flared cone model at Re = 10x10^6 m-1 and zero angle of attack. For the study of the second-mode instability, well-resolved boundary-layer profiles of mean and fluctuating mass flux are acquired at several axial locations using hot-wire probes with a bandwidth of 330 kHz. The second mode instability is observed to undergo significant growth between 250 and 310 kHz. Mode shapes of the disturbance agree well with those predicted from linear parabolized stability equation (LPSE) computations. A 17% (40 kHz) disagreement is observed in the frequency for most-amplified growth between experiment and LPSE. Possible sources of the disagreement are discussed, and the effect of small misalignments of the model is quantified experimentally. A focused schlieren deflectometer with high bandwidth (1 MHz) and high signal-to-noise ratio is employed to complement the hot-wire work. The second-mode fundamental at 250 kHz is observed, as well as additional harmonic content not discernible in the hot-wire measurements at two and three times the fundamental. A bispectral analysis shows that after sufficient amplification of the second mode, several nonlinear mechanisms become significant, including ones involving the third harmonic, which have not hitherto been reported in the literature.

publication date

  • May 2013