Drag reduction on an impulsively started circular cylinder by surface suction has been investigated with a joint numerical and experimental study. Two suction slots entraining mass with various rates were located symmetrically in a range of angles downstream of the points of zero shear stress. The Reynolds number Re of this study was between 500 and 2000, while the suction coefficient M varied from 0 to 0.08. Analysis based on the force contributed by fluid elements with nonvanishing voracity [Chang, Proc. R. Soc. London Ser. A 437, 517 (1992)] has provided a clear view of the physical mechanism causing the drag reduction. For the impulsive flow with surface suction, the initial drag reduction is due to the strengthening of the front boundary layer, while the slender vortices in the near wake due to suction then become the dominant factor in reduction of the drag force in later stages. Close agreements were found between the experimental and numerical results, including streakline flow visualization and surface vorticity measurements on the top of the cylinder. In addition, a parametric study on the slot location, the suction angle, and the width of the suction slot has also been carried out in detail.
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