Laminar air flow through a curved rectangular channel with a variable cross-sectional (c/s) area (diverging-converging channel) is computationally investigated. Such a flow passage is formed between the two fin walls of a 90 deg bend curved fin heat sink, used in avionics cooling. Simulations are carried out for two different configurations: (a) a curved channel with long, straight, constant c/s area inlet and outlet sections (entry and exit lengths); and (b) a short, curved channel with no entry and exit lengths. Formation of a complex 3D flow pattern and its evolution in space is studied through numerical flow visualization. Results show that a secondary motion sets in the radial direction of the curved section, which in combination with the axial (bulk) flow leads to the formation of a base vortex. In addition, under certain circumstances the axial and secondary flow separate from multiple locations on the channel walls, creating Dean vortices and separation bubbles. Velocity above which the Dean vortices appear is cast in dimensionless form as the critical Dean number, which is calculated to be 129. Investigation of the friction factor reveals that pressure drop in the channel is governed by both the curvature effect as well as the area expansion effect. For a short curved channel where area expansion effect dominates, pressure drop for developing flow can be even less than that of a straight channel. A comparison with the flow in a constant c/s area, curved channel shows that the variable c/s area channel geometry leads to a lower critical Dean number and friction factor.

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