The flow around, and in the wake of, pitching airfoils has received renewed interest due to its potential for thrust production at low Reynolds numbers. Past work has centered on the flow fields generated by symmetric pitching of the airfoil. Studies investigating the effects of asymmetric motion are more limited. This work focuses on the wake patterns developed due to asymmetric pitching. Particle Image Velocimetry (PIV) is used to quantify the flow field around a NACA0012 airfoil undergoing small amplitude, high frequency asymmetric pitching. The airfoil is pitched about the quarter chord point with an amplitude of ±4° at reduced frequencies of k = 2.6–5.8 at a Rec = 12000. Pitching symmetries of 50/50, 40/60 and 30/70 are studied, where the symmetry is defined by the fraction of the cycle spent in the pitch down versus pitch up motion. The data show that for the 50/50 (symmetric) motions two alternating sign vortices, with equivalent strength, are formed as expected. The asymmetric cases show that a single vortex is formed during the “fast” portion of the pitching motion. Multiple vortices are formed during the “slow” portion of the pitching motion. The number of secondary vortices and the downstream evolution of the vortices depends on the symmetry value. In some cases they remain isolated but orbit other vortical structures, while in other cases they pair with other vortical structures, and finally when the reduced frequency and asymmetry values are high enough the vortex array shows interaction between cycles.

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