Microscopic particle image velocimetry measurements of transition to turbulence in microscale capillaries
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The character of transitional capillary flow is investigated using pressure-drop measurements and instantaneous velocity fields acquired by microscopic PIV in the streamwise–wall-normal plane of a 536 μm capillary over the Reynolds-number range 1,800 ≤ Re ≤ 3,400 in increments of 100. The pressure-drop measurements reveal a deviation from laminar behavior at Re = 1,900 with the differences between the measured and the predicted laminar-flow pressure drop increasing with increasing Re. These observations are consistent with the characteristics of the mean velocity profiles which begin to deviate from the parabolic laminar profile at Re = 1,900, interpreted as the onset of transition, by becoming increasingly flatter and fuller with increasing Re. A fully-turbulent state is attained at Re ≅ 3,400 where the mean velocity profile collapses onto the mean profile of fully-developed turbulent pipe flow from an existing direct numerical simulation at Re = 5,300. Examination of the instantaneous velocity fields acquired by micro-PIV in the range 1,900 ≤ Re < 3,400 reveal that transitional flows at the microscale are composed of a subset of velocity fields illustrating a purely laminar behavior and a subset of fields that capture significant departure from laminar behavior. The fraction of velocity fields displaying non-laminar behavior increases with increasing Re, consistent with past observations of a growing number of intermittent turbulent spots bounded by nominally laminar flow in macroscale pipe flow with increasing Re. Instantaneous velocity fields that are non-laminar in character consistently contain multiple spanwise vortices that appear to streamwise-align to form larger-scale interfaces that incline slightly away from the wall. The characteristics of these “trains” of vortices are reminiscent of the spatial features of hairpin-like vortices and hairpin vortex packets often observed in fully-turbulent wall-bounded flow at both the macro- and micro-scales. Finally, single-point statistics computed from the non-laminar subsets at each transitional Re, including root-mean-square velocities and the Reynolds shear stress, reveal a gradual and smooth maturation of the patches of disordered motion toward a fully-turbulent state with increasing Re.