The turbulence structure of trailing vortex wakes

TR Number



Journal Title

Journal ISSN

Volume Title


Virginia Tech


The present investigation is a two-part study of the mean flow and turbulence structure of isolated vortices and counter-rotating vortex pairs.

In the first part, the turbulence structure of an isolated vortex was studied using three-component velocity measurements. Vortices were generated using two symmetrical airfoils. Measurements were made in cross-sectional grids and profiles over a range of Reynolds numbers and downstream distances. Contours of axial normal stress were high-pass filtered to remove the contributions of wandering to the velocity fluctuations. This process reveals a vortex core which is laminar and is surrounded by a region of high turbulence. Core velocity profiles reveal that maximum tangential velocity increases with Reynolds number and decreases with distance downstream. Core radius increases with distance downstream and decreases with Reynolds number.

In the second part, flow visualizations of the wake behind a delta wing model were made for a range of Reynolds numbers and lift coefficients. These visualizations reveal the near-instantaneous turbulence structure of the wing wake which is dominated by a vortex pair and a connecting "braid" wake. The braid spacing decreases with increasing Reynolds number and is independent of lift coefficient. The extent of the braid downstream of the wing increases with lift coefficient and decreases with increasing Reynolds number. The large turbulence scales in the wing wake were found to increase in discrete jumps indicating some sort of reorganization of turbulence such as pairing. This reorganization of turbulence was found to occur more quickly as Reynolds number is increased.



hot-wire, Turbulence, flow visualization, vortex, delta wing