Stabilization of the buoyancy-driven unstable mixed convective vortex air flow in a bottom heated rectangular duct by tapering its top plate is investigated experimentally. Specifically, the duct is tapered so that its aspect ratio at the duct inlet is 4 and gradually raised to 12 at the exit of the duct. In the study the secondary flow in the duct is visualized and the steady and transient thermal characteristics of the flow are examined by measuring the spanwise distributions of the time-average temperature. The effects of the Reynolds and Grashof numbers on the vortex flow structure are studied in detail. Moreover, the spanwise-averaged Nusselt numbers for the horizontal rectangular and tapering ducts are also measured and compared. Furthermore, the time records of the air temperature are obtained to further detect the temporal stability of the flow. Over the ranges of the Re and Gr investigated for 5⩽Re⩽102 and 1.0×104Gr1.7×105, the vortex flow induced in the rectangular duct exhibits temporal transition from a steady laminar to time periodic and then to chaotic state at increasing buoyancy-to-inertia ratio. Substantial change in the spatial structure of the vortex flow is also noted to accompany this temporal transition. The results for the tapering duct indicate that more vortex rolls can be induced due to the increase in the aspect ratio of the duct with the axial distance. But the vortex rolls are weaker and are completely stabilized by the tapering of the top plate. [S0022-1481(00)70301-X]

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