Arrays of shallow dimples with depth to diameter ratios of 1.5% and 5% are studied in a turbulent channel flow at Reynolds numbers between 5000 and 35 000. Pressure measurements show that drag reduction of up to 3% is possible. The mechanism of skin friction drag reduction with dimples is the same as that observed for flat surfaces using active methods such as spanwise wall motions or transverse wall jets. The three dimensional dimples introduce streamwise vorticity into the flow which results in spanwise flow components near the wall. The result is that the normal energy cascade to the smaller scales is suppressed, which leads to a reduction in turbulent skin friction drag because of the stabilized flow. Increasing the dimple depth from 1.5% to 5% of its diameter increases the streamwise vorticity introduced, which leads to a greater reduction in skin friction. However, increasing the dimple depth also results in flow separation which increases form drag. The net effect to the total drag depends on the relative dominance between the drag reducing streamwise vorticity and the drag increasing flow separation region. As the Reynolds number increases, the region of flow separation can shrink and result in increasing drag reduction. By understanding the flow physics of drag reduction in dimples, there is opportunity to minimize the form drag by passive contouring of the dimples using non-spherical shapes to optimize the dimple performance.

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