Laminar and turbulent boundary layer separation control of mako shark skin
The Shortfin Mako shark (Isurus oxyrinchus) is one of the fastest swimmers in nature. They have an incredible turning agility and are estimated to achieve speeds as high as ten body lengths per second. Shark skin is known to contain flexible denticles or scales, capable of being actuated by the flow whereby a unique boundary layer control (BLC) method could reduce drag. It is hypothesized that shark scales bristle when the flow is reversed, and this bristling may serve to control flow separation by (1) inhibiting the localized flow reversal near the wall and (2) inducing mixing within the boundary layer by cavities formed between the scales that increases the momentum of the flow near the wall. To test this hypothesis, samples of Mako shark skin have been studied under various amounts of adverse pressure gradient (APG). These samples were collected from the flank region of a Shortfin Mako shark where the scales have the greatest potential for separation control due to the highest bristling angles. An easy technique for inducing boundary layer separation has been developed where an APG can be generated and varied using a rotating cylinder. Both the experimental and numerical studies showed that the amount of APG can be varied as a function of cylinder rotation speed or cylinder gap height for a wide range of Reynolds numbers. This method of generating an APG is used effectively for inducing both laminar and turbulent boundary layer separation over a flat plate. Laminar and turbulent boundary layer separation studies conducted over a smooth plate have been compared with the same setup repeated over shark skin. The time-averaged DPIV results showed that shark scale bristling controlled both laminar and turbulent boundary layer separation to a measurable extent. It shows that the shark scales cause an early transition to turbulence and reduce the degree of laminar separation. For turbulent separation, reverse flow near the wall and inside the boundary layer is hypothesized to bristle the shark scales thereby preventing the reverse flow from reaching higher magnitudes that leads to global flow separation.