An experimental study was conducted to explore the effect of surface flexibility at the leading and trailing edges on the near-wake flow dynamics of a sinusoidal heaving foil. Mid-span particle image velocimetry measurements were taken in a closed loop wind tunnel at a Reynolds number of 25,000 and at a range of reduced frequencies (k = fc/U) from 0.09–0.20. Time resolved and phase locked measurements were used to describe the mean flow characteristics and phase averaged vortex structures and their evolution throughout the oscillation cycle. Large eddy scale decomposition and swirl strength analysis were used to quantify the effect of flexibility on the vortical structures. The results demonstrate that flexibility at the trailing edge has a minimal influence on the mean flow characteristics when compared to the purely rigid foil. The mean velocity deficit for the flexible trailing edge and rigid foils is shown to remain constant for all reduced frequencies tested. However, the trailing edge flexibility increases the swirl strength of the small scale structures, which results in enhanced cross stream dispersion of the mean velocity profile. Flexibility at the leading edge is shown to generate a large scale leading edge vortex for k ≥ 0.18. This results in a reduction in the swirl strength due to the complex vortex interactions when compared to the flexible trailing edge and rigid foils. Furthermore, it is shown that the large scale leading edge vortex is responsible for extracting a significant portion of the energy from the mean flow, resulting in a substantial reduction of mean flow momentum in the wake. The kinetic energy loss in the wake is shown to scale well with the energy content of the leading edge vortex.

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