In many boundary-layer situations, particularly in turbomachinery, separation-bubble transition occurs at a local pressure gradient that differs significantly from the values further upstream. Additionally, this upstream history changes substantially from case to case, with the transitioning separation bubble occurring at streamwise positions along the blade chord varying from close vicinity of the leading edge to mid-chord. In the case of low free-stream disturbances, development of instability waves prior to separation would clearly vary as a result of these differences in the history of the boundary layer prior to separation.

Measurements are presented to document the effects of pressure gradients that a laminar boundary layer experiences prior to separation on the transition process that follows in the separated region. The boundary layer development was measured on a smooth, flat plate upon which streamwise pressure gradients were imposed by a flexible, contoured wall opposite to the test plate. Only low freestream-turbulence levels were considered to isolate the effects of pressure-gradient history on the transition process. Two Reynolds numbers were considered for each pressure-gradient setting. Measured quantities consisted of velocity and turbulence intensity obtained with a single hot-wire, and of surface pressures. Observed variations in transition onset location with changes in pressure-gradient history provide the basis for further development of current transition prediction schemes.

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