Experiments are performed to study the starting process of heat transfer downstream of a backward-facing step. A Ludwieg tube wind tunnel is employed to produce the incompressible flow, which accelerates from a zero velocity to a steady state value with an accelerating period of 7 ms and a steady-state period of 12 ms. Hot-wire anemometry and heat flux gages are used to measure the flow and heat transfer history, respectively. The onset of transition in the free shear layer shows that the disturbance originates from the top corner of the step, then propagating to the free stream. The velocity and turbulence profiles in the free shear layer reach steady-state values after the leading edge disturbance traverses to the measurement locations. In regions upstream and far downstream of the step, heat flux history data suggest the transformation of the flow from laminar to transitional and finally to turbulent flow. Hot-wire anemometry measurements indicate high-frequency turbulence with a short characteristic time. In the recirculating region, however, a longer characteristic time is observed because of the existence of large-scale eddies. The dimensionless reattachment length (xr/H) is shown to increase with time from the bottom corner (xr/H = 0) in the laminar regime to a maximum value of 13.6 in the transitional regime, and decreases to a constant values of 7.6 in the turbulent regime. The steady-state flow field and heat transfer compare favorably with existing data obtained using steady-state techniques.

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