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Boundary layer with pressure

gradient in flow direction.

Unit # 5: Potter 8.2, 8.3.2, 8.6.7
Negative and positive pressure gradients
occur in a converging diverging duct
Boundary layer flow with pressure gradient

• So far we neglected the pressure variation along the flow in a

boundary layer
• This is not valid for boundary layer over curved surface like
• Owing to object’s shape the freestream velocity just outside the
boundary layer varies along the length of the surface.
• As per Bernoullis equation, the static pressure in the freestream
varies in x- direction.
• As the pressure just outside of a boundary layer varies along x
axis that inside the boundary layer also varies along x axis
• Normally fluid travels from high to low pressure,
but in some cases fluid particles can move against
higher pressure by virtue of its kinetic energy.

• While working against higher pressure the velocity

inside the boundary layer could reduce so much
that the kinetic energy is no longer adequate to
move the particles against the pressure gradient.

• This leads to flow reversal.

• Since fluid layers further away from the wall still

have energy to move forward a rolling of fluid
streams occurs, which is called separation
Onset of separation
Navier Stokes eq. is valid inside boundary
layer. Eq. (8.6.45) from Potter we have
∂u ∂u 1 dP µ ∂ 2u
u +v =− +
∂x ∂y ρ dx ρ ∂y 2

At wall u =0, v =0 we get

∂ 2u 1 dP
∂y 2 wall
µ dx

Separation Equation
• When pressure decreases (dP/dx <0) second derivative of
velocity is negative. So the velocity initially increases
fast and then gently blend with the free stream velocity U
• For adverse pressure gradient ( dP/dx >0) second
derivative is positive at wall but must be negative at the
top of boundary layer to match with U. Thus it must pass
through a point of inflexion.
• Separation occurs when the velocity gradient is zero at
the wall and shear stress at wall is zero (δu/δy = 0)
of the
• Separation starts with zero velocity gradient at the wall

• Flow reversal takes place beyond separation point

dP/dx > 0
• Adverse pressure gradient is necessary for separation

• There is no pressure change after separation

So, pressure in the separated region is
Effect of separation
• Increases the drag because:

• a) Turbulent eddies formed due to separation cannot

convert their rotational energy back into pressure head.
• A) The low pressure in separated region persists in the
entire downstream region.
• C) The difference between high pressure at the front and
low pressure at rear increases the drag.
• D) This increase in drag overshadows any increase in lift
due to increase in the angle of attack
Severe separation causes stalling
Fluid in turbulent boundary layer has appreciably more
momentum than that in laminar B.L. Turbulent B.L can
penetrate further into an adverse pressure gradient without

Smooth ball Rough ball

Effect of a wire ring on separation
How to reduce separation
• Streamlining reduces adverse pressure gradient beyond
the maximum thickness and delays separation
• Fluid particles lose kinetic energy near separation point.
So these are either removed by suction or higher energy

• High energy fluid is blown near separation point

• Roughening surface to force early transition to turbulent
boundary layer
Separation delays
by suction
Drag on airfoil
• Separation is reduced
by slightly bending
the leading edge.
• By giving air foil
shape to the plate
drag is further
• But further tilting
brings back the
Problem (White-7.63)
• Assume that the front surface velocity on an
infinitely long cylinder is given by potential theory ,
V = 2Usinθ from which the surface pressure is
computed by Bernoullis equation. In the separated
flow on the rear, the pressure is assumed equal to its
value at θ = 90. Compute the theoretical drag
coefficient and compare that with the experimental
value of 1.2
[This problem may show the inadequacy of potential flow
theory near the surface]
Boundary layer growth in a nozzle-
Nozzle Throat Diffuser

Area Area Area

Decreasing Constant Increasing
Velocity Velocity Velocity
increasing Constant decreasing
Pressure Pressure Pressure
decreases Constant increases
Pressure gradient Pressure gradient Pressure gradient
Favourable Zero Adverse
Influence of a
strong pressure
gradient on a
turbulent flow:
(a) a strong
negative pressure
gradient may re-
laminarize a
flow; (b) a strong
positive pressure
gradient causes a
strong boundary
layer top thicken.
(Photograph by
R.E. Falco)