The mechanics of the Tollmien-Schlichting wave

Peter G. Baines, Sharan J. Majumdar, Humio Mitsudera

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

27 Scopus citations


We describe a mechanistic picture of the essential dynamical processes in the growing Tollmien-Schlichting wave in a Blasius boundary layer and similar flows. This picture depends on the interaction between two component parts of a disturbance (denoted 'partial modes'), each of which is a complete linear solution in some idealization of the system. The first component is an inviscid mode propagating on the vorticity gradient of the velocity profile with the free-slip boundary condition, and the second, damped free viscous modes in infinite uniform shear with the no-slip condition. There are two families of these viscous modes, delineated by whether the phase lines of the vorticity at the wall are oriented with or against the shear, and they are manifested as resonances in a forced system. The interaction occurs because an initial 'inviscid' disturbance forces a viscous response via the no-slip condition at the wall. This viscous response is large near the resonance associated with the most weakly damped viscous mode, and in the unstable parameter range it has suitable phase at the outer part of the boundary layer to increase the amplitude of the inviscid partial mode by advection.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)107-124
Number of pages18
JournalJournal of Fluid Mechanics
StatePublished - Apr 10 1996
Externally publishedYes

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Condensed Matter Physics
  • Mechanics of Materials
  • Mechanical Engineering


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