The results of all available experimental investigations into the characteristics of free convective flow of air between horizontal isothermal concentric cylinders are reviewed and several discrepancies are pointed out. An experimental study is described which was directed at resolving these discrepancies and categorizing the several flow patterns which have been observed. Using six different cylinder sets and varying both the annulus pressure and temperature difference between the cylinder surfaces, a range of Grashof numbers (based on annulus width) from 300 to 3.4 × 106 was achieved. The resulting air flow patterns were made visible with the use of tobacco smoke and are documented by written descriptions, photographs, motion pictures, and quantitative data. One steady and three unsteady flow patterns were observed and comparison with the results of other investigators is presented. A chart is presented which allows prediction of the type of unsteady flow that will occur for a wide range of cylinder combinations and annulus operating conditions. A comparison with cylinders in forced cross-flow is used to satisfactorily predict the onset of one of the unsteady flow patterns. Also, the flow patterns observed experimentally are compared to those predicted by an available analytical solution.

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