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Y+ Wall Function in CFD

Sanket Dange & Ganesh Visavale1

LearnCAx, CAx education division
Centre for Computational Technologies Pvt. Ltd., Pune, India

Before getting into the details of the turbulent models, let us first discuss an
important concept known as 𝒚+ and know how it is related to turbulence modeling,
mesh generation process and its effect to the CFD end result. It is important to know
about the concept of wall 𝑦 + or in general how the flow behaves near the wall, as it
is on the basis of 𝑦 + , the turbulence models are generally selected for solutions. The
behavior of flow near the wall is a complicated phenomenon and to distinguish the
different regions near the wall, the concept of wall 𝑦 + has been formulated. Thus
𝑦 + is a dimensionless quantity and is the distance from wall measured in terms of
viscous lengths.

Why we need 𝒚+ ?

One of the prime reasons for the need of 𝑦 + is to distinguish different regions near
the wall or in the viscous region, but how exactly it helps in turbulence modeling or
in general CFD modeling essentially needs to be well understood. Let us try to
explain this with an example. Imagine a fisherman using fishing net, a grid kind of
structure to trap fishes. Now if he is trying to catch medium sized fishes the grids in
the net he might use are supposed to be somewhat big, but if he is trying to trap
even small sized fishes then the grid size of the net should be small enough to
capture those. In this case even the large fishes are also captured. Similarly getting
back to our case if we intend to resolve the effects near the wall i.e., in the viscous
sub layer then the size of the mesh size should be small and dense enough near the
wall so that almost all the effects are captured. But in some cases if the wall effects
are negligible then there is option of including semi-empirical formulae to bridge

Dr. Ganesh Visavale (, LearnCAx, Centre for Computational Technologies Pvt. Ltd

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between the viscosity affected region and fully turbulent region and in this case the
mesh size need not be small or dense enough near the wall i.e., coarse mesh works
sufficiently in this case.

Considering the first case i.e., near wall modeling it is well-known that the mesh
size should be small enough. However, one may wish to know exactly how small ?
Thus, here comes the concept of 𝑦 + and based on its value the first cell height can
be calculated. Also the near wall regions are meshed using the calculated first cell
height value with gradual growth in the mesh so that most of the effects are
captured avoiding heavy mesh count.

Let us now look at the 𝑦 + concept i.e., what exactly it is, in more detail. However,
before that let us revisit the concept of boundary layer, especially turbulent
boundary layer.

Boundary layer theory:

In a flow bounded by a wall, different scales and physical processes are dominant in
the inner portion near the wall, and the outer portion approaching the free stream.
These layers are typically known as the inner and outer layers. Considering the flow
over a smooth flat plate the boundary layer can be distinguished into two types
namely; laminar boundary layer and turbulent boundary layer. Typical boundary
layer structure over a flat plate is shown in the figure below. In between the laminar
and turbulent boundary layer there is a transition region. Typically for flow over a
flat plate the transition usually occurs around 𝑅𝑒 ≈ 5 × 105 .

(Reference : Y. Cengel, Fluid Mechanics: Fundamentals and Applications)

Since we have discussed about the turbulent flow characteristics in our previous
blog, Introduction to Turbulence, we shall not get into greater detail here and
directly discuss about the turbulent boundary layer. From the above figure it can be
seen that in turbulent boundary layer region flow near the wall has been analyzed
in terms of three layers:

 The inner layer, or sublayer, where viscous shear dominates

 The outer layer, or defect layer, where large scale turbulent eddy shear

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 The overlap layer, or log layer, where velocity profiles exhibit a

logarithmic variation
A still clear image of the above phenomena is shown below:

Reference: Applied Computational Fluid Dynamics by André Bakker

where 𝑈0 is the free stream velocity and 𝛿 is the boundary layer thickness, 𝑦 is the
vertical distance measured from the wall. Turbulent boundary layers are usually
described in terms of several non-dimensional parameters. The boundary layer
thickness, 𝛿 is the distance from the wall at which viscous effects become negligible
and represents the edge of the boundary layer.

Now let us discuss more about the above said regions. Owing to the presence of the
solid boundary the flow behavior and turbulent structure are considerably different
from free turbulent flows. Dimensional analysis has greatly assisted in correlating
the experimental data. In turbulent thin layer flows a Reynolds number based on
length scale 𝐿 in the flow direction 𝑅𝑒𝐿 is always very large. This implies that inertia
forces are greater than viscous forces at these scales. If we consider Reynolds
number on a distance y away from the wall Re y= U0y/υ, we see that if the value of
𝑦 is of the order of 𝐿 the above argument holds well. Inertia force dominates far
away from the wall. As 𝑦 is decreased to zero, the Reynolds number based on 𝑦 also
decreases to zero. Just before 𝑦 reaches zero there will be a range of values of 𝑦
for which 𝑅𝑒𝑦 is of the order 1. At this distance from the wall and closer, the viscous
forces will be equal in the order of magnitude to the inertia forces or large. To
conclude, in flows along solid boundaries there is usually substantial region of
inertia dominated flow far away from the wall and a thin layer within which viscous
effects are important.

Near to the wall the flow is influenced by the viscous effects and independent of
free stream parameters. However the mean flow velocity depends on 𝑦 (distance
from the wall), ρ (fluid density), 𝜇 (viscosity) and τw (wall shear stress).

Thus: U0 = f(y, ρ,𝜇, τw)

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 Linear sub-layer :
At the solid surface the fluid is stationary and the turbulent eddying motion
must also stop very close to the wall. The fluid very close to the wall is
dominated by viscous shear in absence of the turbulent shear stress effects
(𝑦 + < 5) and it can be assumed that the shear stress is almost constant and
equal to the wall shear stress 𝜏𝑤 throughout the layer.
Thus we have;
𝜏(𝑦) = 𝜇 ≅ 𝜏𝑤
Applying boundary conditions & manipulations we obtain:
𝑢+ = 𝑦 +
Now as can be seen from the expression above to be a linear, the fluid layer
adjacent to the wall is called as linear sub layer.
 Log-law layer :
At some distance from the wall and outside the viscous sub-layer (30 < 𝑦 + <
500) a region exists where viscous and turbulent effects are both important.
Within this inner region the shear stress is assumed to be constant and equal
to wall shear stress and varying gradually with distance from the wall. The
relationship between 𝑦 + and 𝑢+ in this region is given as:
1 1
𝑢+ = ln 𝑦 + + 𝐵 = ln 𝐸 𝑦 +
𝑘 𝑘
where 𝑘, 𝐵 and 𝐸 are constants whose values are determined from
measurements. As the relationship between 𝑦 + and 𝑢+ is logarithmic, the
above expression is known as log-law and the layer where 𝑦 + takes the values
between 30 and 500 is known as log-law layer.
 Outer layer:
According to experimental studies it is found that the log-law is valid in the
range 0.2 < 𝛿 < 0.2 and for higher values of 𝑦 the defect law is referred,
whereas in the overlap region the log-law and velocity defect law (law of
wake) are equal. Tennekes and Lumley (1972) proposed the following
logarithmic law for identifying the matched overlap region.
𝑈𝑚𝑎𝑥 − 𝑈 1 𝑦
= 𝑙𝑛 + 𝐴
𝑢𝜏 𝑘 𝛿
 Buffer layer:

In the buffer layer, between 5 and 30 wall units, neither law holds, such that:
For 5<𝑦 + <30; 𝑢+ ≠ 𝑦 +
𝑢+ ≠ ln 𝑦 + + 𝐵

With the largest variation from either law occurring approximately where the two
equations intercept, at y+=11. That is, before 11 wall units the linear
approximation is more accurate and after 11 wall units the logarithmic

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approximation should be used, though neither are relatively accurate at 11 wall


Schematic diagram of the above laws or in general law of wall is shown below. The
near-wall modeling significantly impacts the fidelity of numerical solutions,
inasmuch as walls are the main source of mean vorticity and turbulence. After all,
it is in the near-wall region that the solution variables have large gradients, and the
momentum and other scalar transports occur most vigorously. Therefore, accurate
representation of the flow in the near-wall region determines successful predictions
of wall-bounded turbulent flows.

Velocity profiles in turbulent wall flow

The k-ε models, the RSM, and the LES model are primarily valid for turbulent core
flows (i.e., the flow in the regions somewhat far from walls). Consideration
therefore needs to be given as to how to make these models suitable for wall-
bounded flows. The Spalart-Allmaras and k-ω models were designed to be applied
throughout the boundary layer, provided that the near-wall mesh resolution is
sufficient. The two approaches are schematically shown below.

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Reference: Near-Wall Treatments in ANSYS FLUENT

In most high-Reynolds-number flows, the wall function approach substantially saves

computational resources, because the viscosity-affected near-wall region, in which
the solution variables change most rapidly, does not need to be resolved. The wall
function approach is popular because it is economical, robust, and reasonably
accurate. It is a practical option for the near-wall treatments for industrial flow

The wall function approach, however, is inadequate in situations where the low-
Reynolds-number effects are pervasive in the flow domain in question, and the
hypotheses underlying the wall functions cease to be valid. Such situations require
near-wall models that are valid in the viscosity-affected region and accordingly
integrable all the way to the wall.

From above discussion it is clear that the placement of the first node in our near-
wall inflation mesh is very important.

(Reference: Leap CFD)

From above image we need to be careful to ensure that our 𝑦 + values are not so
large that the first node falls outside the boundary layer region. If this happens,
then the Wall Functions used by our turbulence model may incorrectly calculate the
flow properties at this first calculation point which will introduce errors into our
pressure drop and velocity results.

Let us see steps to calculate first cell height.

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 Firstly, we should calculate the Reynolds number for our model based on the
characteristic scales of our geometry.
 From the definition of 𝑦 +
𝜌𝑈𝜏 ∆𝑦 𝑦+. 𝜇
𝑦+ = → ∆𝑦 =
𝜇 𝜌𝑈𝜏
where 𝑈𝜏 is shear velocity. The target 𝑦 + value and fluid properties are known
a priori, so we need to calculate the frictional velocity as given above.
 The wall shear stress, 𝜏𝑤 can be calculated from skin friction
coefficient,𝐶𝑓 such that:
𝜏𝑤 = 𝐶𝑓 𝜌𝑈0 2
 Thus to calculate ∆𝑦 we need to know 𝐶𝑓 , there are empirical formulae to
calculate 𝐶𝑓 which are given below.
For internal flows: 𝐶𝑓 = 0.079 ∙ 𝑅𝑒 −0.25
For external flows: 𝐶𝑓 = 0.058 ∙ 𝑅𝑒 −0.2
Thus with all these inputs we can insert the values in the above equation to
calculate ∆𝑦.
When considering simple flows and simple geometry, we might find this correlation
is highly accurate. However, when considering complex geometry, refinement in
the boundary layer may be required to ensure the desired 𝑦 + value is achieved. In
such cases re-mesh has to be done or else mesh adaption techniques have to be used
to achieve the required value across the entire model.
Thus we have learnt that the wall function approach and 𝑦 + value required is
determined by the flow behavior and the turbulence model being used. If you have
an attached flow, then generally we can use a Wall Function approach, which means
a larger initial 𝑦 + value, smaller overall mesh count and faster run times. If one
expects flow separation and knows that the accurate prediction of the separation
point can have an impact the result, then it would be advised to resolve the
boundary layer all the way to the wall with a finer mesh. Unfortunately, as the
𝑦 + value is dependent on the local fluid velocity which varies across the wall
significantly for most industrial flow applications, it is not possible to know the exact
𝑦 + prior to running an initial simulation. For this reason, it is important that one
gets into the habit of checking the 𝑦 + values as part of normal post-processing to
ensure to be in the valid range for the problem flow physics and turbulence model


Modeling by J. M. McDonough

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 FLUENT user guide


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