Turbulent flow between a flexible wall and a solid surface containing a backward-facing step (BFS) was investigated using digital particle image velocimetry (PIV) and high-speed photography. Motivation for this study stems from paper manufacturing industry, where high-speed, wall-bounded jets of air are employed in air clamp devices to precisely position moving sheets of paper at the specified locations with respect to other equipment. In the current investigation, stationary sheet of paper under tension was positioned in proximity to the BFS. The incoming air flow emerged from a planar nozzle that was located in the solid wall upstream of the BFS. Curvature of the nozzle wall resulted in a favorable pressure gradient condition. As a result, the flow upstream of the BFS was attached to the solid wall due to the Coanda effect. Flows corresponding to two values of the Reynolds number (3000 and 3600) based on the step height and the maximum flow velocity at the step location were characterized in terms of patterns of instantaneous and time-averaged velocity, out-of-plane vorticity, streamline topology, and turbulence statistics. In addition, paper sheet oscillation was characterized using high-speed photography. Frequencies of the natural vibration modes of the flexible wall (paper sheet) were well separated from the hydrodynamic frequencies corresponding to the oscillations of the shear layer downstream of the BFS, which resulted in the absence of resonance in the system and low characteristic amplitudes of the paper sheet oscillation. In the time-averaged sense, interaction between the separated flow downstream of the BFS and the flexible wall (paper sheet) resulted in deformation of the paper sheet and formation of diverging channel geometry between the sheet and the solid wall. As the inflow velocity increased, the paper sheet was pulled closer to the surface of the air clamp, which resulted in increased confinement of the incoming Coanda jet. The flow reattachment length calculated on the basis of time-averaged flow patterns increased with the increasing Reynolds number.

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