Volumetric measurement and vorticity dynamics of leading-edge vortex formation on a revolving wing

Long Chen, Jianghao Wu, Bo Cheng

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24 Scopus citations


Abstract: Leading-edge vortex (LEV) is a hallmark of insect flight that forms and remains stably attached on high angle-of-attack (AoA), low aspect ratio (AR) wings undergoing revolving or flapping motion. Despite the efforts on explaining the stability of LEV when it reaches steady state in revolving wings, its formation process remains largely underexplored. Here, we investigate the LEV formation on a revolving wing (AoA = 45°, AR = 4 and Re = 1500), starting with a constant acceleration in the first chord (c) length of travel and then rotating at a constant velocity. The ‘Shake-the-box’ (STB) Lagrangian particle tracking velocimetry (PTV) system together with a volumetric patching process were performed to reconstruct the entire time-resolved flow field. Results show that LEV reaches steady state after approximately 4c of travel, within which its formation can be separated into three stages. In the first stage, a conical LEV structure begins to form with a tangential downstream convection of (negative) radial shear vorticity. In the second stage, the radial vorticity within the LEV is further convected downwards by the developed downwash, which limits its growth, whereas vorticity stretching increases the LEV strength. In the third stage, vorticity tilting and spanwise convection reduce the LEV strength at its rear end next to the trailing edge and, therefore, preventing it from growing. Our results suggest that insect wings with AR ~ 4, Re ~ 10 3 and flapping amplitude between 2c and 4c may barely or even not reach the steady state of LEV, indicating an indispensable role of transient LEV dynamics in understanding insect flight. Graphical abstract: [Figure not available: see fulltext.].

Original languageEnglish (US)
Article number12
JournalExperiments in Fluids
Issue number1
StatePublished - Jan 1 2019

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • Computational Mechanics
  • Mechanics of Materials
  • General Physics and Astronomy
  • Fluid Flow and Transfer Processes


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