Buoyancy-induced flows occur in the rotating cavities of gas turbine internal air systems, and are particularly challenging to model due to their inherent unsteadiness. While the global features of such flows are well documented, detailed analyses of the unsteady structure and turbulent quantities have not been reported. In this work we use a high-order numerical method to perform large-eddy simulation (LES) of buoyancy-induced flow in a sealed rotating cavity with either adiabatic or heated disks. New insight is given into long-standing questions regarding the flow characteristics and nature of the boundary layers. The analyses focus on showing time-averaged quantities, including temperature and velocity fluctuations, as well as on the effect of the centrifugal Rayleigh number on the flow structure. Using velocity and temperature data collected over several revolutions of the system, the shroud and disk boundary layers are analysed in detail. The instantaneous flow structure contains pairs of large, counter-rotating convection rolls, and it is shown that unsteady laminar Ekman boundary layers near the disks are driven by the interior flow structure. The shroud thermal boundary layer scales as approximately Ra−1/3, in agreement with observations for natural convection under gravity.

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