Inertioelastic flow instability at a stagnation point

Burshtein, Noa and Zografos, Konstantinos and Shen, Amy Q. and Poole, Robert J. and Haward, Simon J. (2017) Inertioelastic flow instability at a stagnation point. Physical Review X, 7 (4). 041039. ISSN 2160-3308 (

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A number of important industrial applications exploit the ability of small quantities of high molecular weight polymer to suppress instabilities that arise in the equivalent flow of Newtonian fluids, a particular example being turbulent drag reduction. However, it can be extremely difficult to probe exactly how the polymer acts to, e.g., modify the streamwise near-wall eddies in a fully turbulent flow. Using a novel cross-slot flow configuration, we exploit a flow instability in order to create and study a single steady-state streamwise vortex. By quantitative experiment, we show how the addition of small quantities (parts per million) of a flexible polymer to a Newtonian solvent dramatically affects both the onset conditions for this instability and the subsequent growth of the axial vorticity. Complementary numerical simulations with a finitely extensible nonlinear elastic dumbbell model show that these modifications are due to the growth of polymeric stress within specific regions of the flow domain. Our data fill a significant gap in the literature between the previously reported purely inertial and purely elastic flow regimes and provide a link between the two by showing how the instability mode is transformed as the fluid elasticity is varied. Our results and novel methods are relevant to understanding the mechanisms underlying industrial uses of weakly elastic fluids and also to understanding inertioelastic instabilities in more confined flows through channels with intersections and stagnation points.