An experimental investigation of interacting wing-tip vortex pairs

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Virginia Tech


The interactions of trailing vortex pairs shed from the tips of two rectangular wings have been studied through helium bubble flow visualizations and extensive hot wire velocity measurements made between 10 and 30 chord lengths downstream. The wings were placed tip to tip at equal and opposite angles of attack, generating pairs of co-rotating and counter rotating vortices. Meaningful hot wire measurements could be made because the vortices were found to be insensitive to probe interference and experienced very small wandering motions.

The co-rotating pairs were observed to rotate around each other and merge. Upstream of the merging location, the vortices have approximately elliptical cores. These are surrounded by the two wing wakes which join together around the two cores. Flow in the vicinity of the cores appears fully developed. During the merging process, the cores rotate rapidly about each other, winding the wing wakes into a fine spiral structure. Merger roughly doubles the core size and appears to produce turbulence over abroad range of frequencies. The counter rotating pairs move sideways under their mutual induction and slightly apart; their flow structure changing little with downstream location. These cores remain fairly circular and do not become fully developed within 30 chord lengths of the measurements.