The flow above the free end of a surface-mounted finite-height circular cylinder was studied in a low-speed wind tunnel using particle image velocimetry (PIV). The cylinder was mounted vertically in the wind tunnel, normal to a ground plane. The approaching flow was in the x-direction and the cylinder axis was aligned in the z-direction. Velocity measurements were made above the free-end surface in several vertical (x-z) planes and several horizontal (x-y) planes, for finite circular cylinders of aspect ratios AR = 9, 7, 5 and 3, at a Reynolds number of Re = 4.2×104. The relative thickness of the boundary layer on the ground plane was δ/D = 1.7. In the vertical symmetry plane, the mean velocity measurements show the prominent separation from the circumferential leading edge, the mean recirculation zone above the free-end surface, the arch vortex inside the recirculation zone, and reattachment of the flow onto the free-end surface. Experimental evidence is found for a leading-edge separation bubble, a flow structure which has been reported in some numerical simulations in the literature. As AR decreases, the reattachment point and the centre of the arch vortex move downstream, the recirculation zone becomes thicker, and the centre of the arch vortex moves higher above the free end. Away from the symmetry plane, the recirculation zone becomes thinner, the arch vortex centre moves upstream and closer to the free-end surface, and the reattachment point moves upstream. In the horizontal planes, measurements made very close to the surface can approximate the mean surface streamline topology, revealing the pair of foci representing the termination points of the arch vortex, the prominent curved reattachment line, reverse flow beneath the mean recirculation zone, and the reattachment and separation saddle points on the free-end centerline.

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