You are on page 1of 8

Modeling and simulation of aerodynamic in a long span suspension bridge

F. Petrini
Structural Engineer, Rome, Italy

F. Giuliano

Department of Structural Mechanics, University of Pavia, Italy

F. Bontempi
Department of Structural and Geotechnical Engineering, University of Rome La Sapienza, Rome, Italy

Keywords: bridge design, bridge aerodynamic, CFD, large eddy simulation, turbulence
sented. The analyses have been conducted by Computational Fluid Dynamic (CFD) codes (ANSYS and ADINA), with Finite Element Method (FEM) and Large Eddy Simulation (LES) based approaches respectively. The calibration of turbulence mathematical models, the robustness of the overall computational model and the behavior changes due to deck geometry or presence of traffic, are investigated by sensitivity analyses.

ABSTRACT: Some aspects pertaining the modeling of the aerodynamic behavior of bridge deck sections are pre-



When a fluid flow impacts on a rigid body, aerodynamic forces (D drag, L lift, M moment) generate themselves on the body (Fig.1). The forces depend from the shape of the body and from the relative angle of attack between the flow and the body. They are identified by non-dimensional coefficients c l , c d , c M which represent, respectively, the non-dimensional forces of lift, drag and moment acting on the body. Furthermore, a diagram which describes the variation of an aerodynamic force with the angle of attack is called polar.

Figure 1. Aerodynamics forces

Aerodynamics of suspension bridge is usually investigated by wind-tunnel tests. In the last decade computational applications of fluid dynamic (CFD) have became an important resource to complete the experimental tests which are very expensive both in time and money. Especially during the design phases, there is the necessity to explore different and alternative deck configurations: thats where CFD are more appreciable.

The main causes of errors in the investigation of suspension bridge aerodynamic are connected to the following aspects: a. Model similitude in wind-tunnel tests. In wind-tunnel tests, it is impossible to obtain a total similitude between the real structure and its reduced scale model. Therefore, specially in restricted flow-way (like near-traffic barriers places), the Reynolds number investigated by wind-tunnel tests is not equal to the real one; just because in restricted way there is not a complete formation of the boundary layer, the nonsimilitude effect increases with the reduced scale size of the model. CFD could be able to solve this problem because its results doesnt depend from the reduced scale size of the model. b. Turbulence of flow. In CFD approaches of the aerodynamic problem, the turbulent character of the flow induces uncertainties and unquantifiable terms in the governing equations. c. Model approximations. The models which are used in CFD approaches solve the problem using some approximation (interpolation of unknown functions, viscosity models, turbulence models, etc.). An important (and usual) approximation has been used in this paper: the incident flow has been considered like laminar; doing so, only the turbulence due to the impact of flow on the structure has been considered while the natural flow turbulence has been neglected. d. Analysis results sensibility. Because of previous points, the results of the CFD analyses are


usually very sensible to the analysis parameters. Therefore, the analyses need an optimization of the parameters. 3 OBJECTIVES OF THIS PAPER

where b is the mean time value component of the function and b' is the fluctuant value component of the function. Mean value is calculated in a period T so short that b is constant in T, and long enough that mean value of b' is equal to zero.
1 T
t T

In this paper some applications of CFD on a suspension bridge deck section are presented: the reference is the Great Belt East Bridge (GBEB) located in Denmark (Fradsen, 2002). The analyses have been conducted by ANSYS code, with Finite Element Method approaches and Rng turbulent model (results are indicated below with FEM legend), and by ADINA code, with Large Eddy Simulation approaches (results are indicated below with LES legend). The following objectives are pursued: 1) modeling techniques optimization, for the simulation of physical phenomena (vortex shedding, temporal fluctuations of aerodynamics forces, punctual pressure values around the deck), in order to compare computational results with windtunnel data; 2) definition of the influence of deck details (traffic barriers) and traffic vehicles on most important aerodynamic design data: the aerodynamics polar. 4 CFD GOVERNING EQUATIONS

b dt b

1 T

t T

b' dt 0


4.1.1 RNG turbulent model With reference to a planar motion problem, adopting equation (3) for the component of velocity v x :

v x ( x, y, t ) v x ( x, y ) v x ' (t )


and making an average on the Navier-Stokes equation for opportune periods T (removing fluctuant component of functions), the x component of equation (2) becomes
2vx 2vx p x vx ' vx ' y vx ' v y ' x 2 y 2 x (6) v x v v v x x v y x t x y

f x

In equation (6) there are turbulent Reynolds stress terms:

Txi x j

v xi ' v x j ' xi


In aerodynamic design of suspension bridges, because of low relative wind velocities (usually less than 80 m/s) one can consider the fluid incompressible. Also using Newtons approximation on fluid viscosity, in CFD problems there are four scalar unknown functions in time t: pressure p and velocity components in a Cartesian coordinate system v x , v y , v z . The four governing equations are: - scalar continuity equation divv 0 (1)

By introducing a new scalar entity T (turbulent viscosity) such as

v xi ' v x j ' T so that

v xi
x j


e T
equation (6) becomes
v x v x v x v x v y t x y 2vx 2vx p e x 2 y 2 x


f x

- vectorial Navier-Stokes equation D f gradp 2 v v Dt



where is the fluid viscosity, is the fluid density and D Dt is the total derivate operator. Equations (1) and (2) should be solved after fixing adeguate boundary and initial conditions.

Several models of turbulent motion are based on T expression. RNG model fixes




4.1 Aspect of turbulence In turbulent motion, one considers temporal means of local-instantaneous functions values. Every function b( x, y, z , t ) will be a sum of two parts:

where C is a constant, k is the turbulent kinetic energy and is its dissipation velocity; k and values are obtained by a system of two differential equations.

b( x, y, z, t ) b( x, y, z ) b' (t )



4.1.2 Large Eddy Simulation (LES) LES basic concept is the following: making a computational grid with minimum size A, LES computes fluids vortexes which have a size bigger than A and models vortexes which have a size smaller than A (sub grid vortexes). In LES approaches, any function f is divisible in two parts: a calculable part f and a sub grid part f . Taking into account equation (6), written in indicial form
2 v i vi v j 1 p 1 vi t x j xi xi x j

vortexes loose themselves in the wake, there is a vortex shedding phenomenon. Applications of this paper are summarized in Table 1


and applying a spatial filter tothe equation (12), one obtains

2 v i vi v j 1 p 1 vi ij (13) t x j xi xi x j x j

where online elements are filtered. In equation (13) there are terms in the form:

ij v i v j v i v j



which represent the sub grid Reynolds stresses, that are related to energy dissipations due to sub grid vortexes. There are many models for these stresses. The most used is the Smagorinsky model; it fixes:




ij 2 SGS S ij


Figure 2. The GBEB and its deck section (meters)

SGS C SGS 2 2S ij S ji


is the sub grid viscosity, C SGS is the Smagorinsky constant, which changes with stream configuration and shape of the invested body, is the grid size (and filter parameter) and Sij is given by:
S ij v 1 v i j 2 x j x i

LES method is very suitable for the investigation of the aerodynamic of structures since the fluctuation of the forces is mainly due to big vortexes. The main problem of LES method is to determine the optimal value of the constant C SGS in equation (16). 5 CFD APPLICATION The GBEB and its deck section are shown in Fig. 2, being the central suspension span of the bridge 1624 m long. Wind-tunnel tests show that, when wind impacts on the bridge, there are aerodynamics force oscillations and some vortexes structures are generated around the deck. Previous studies (Bruno-Khris 2002) attributed these fluctuations to the relative positions of these vortexes (Fig. 3). Furthermore, when
Figure 3. Flow screenshot (Bruno-Khris 2002) Table 1. Analyses Type of section (paragraph)

Nude deck section (5.1)

Deck+traffic barriers(5.2) Deck+traffic barriers+vehicles(5.3)

Type of analyses parameters optimization forces analysis forces analysis forces analysis


5.1 Nude section For the computational analysis, a fluid domain with opportune boundary and initial conditions has been defined. Deck section contour has been defined with a wall inside the domain; the domain has been discretized by different size grids (Fig. 4) described below: 1. FEM - coarse ( y B 3 10 2 ), medium ( y B 2,4 10 3 ), fine ( y B 8 10 4 ); 2. LES - medium ( y B 1,2 10 3 ); where y is the orthogonal grid size from deck contour and B is the geometric reference size of the deck (31m).

0,02 0,015 0,01 0,005 0 10 -0,005 -0,01 -0,015 -0,02 -0,025 15 20 25 30 35

t (sec)





Figure 5. FEM: lift coefficient function Cl(t) for zero angle of attack

Coarse grid:

t=t0, t1, ........, tn

Fine grid:


Fine grid:


Figure 6. FEM: flow screenshots for zero angle of attack

(b) Figure 4. Grid size: fine FEM (a), medium LES (b)

Analysis results show that FEM computes an aerodynamic force oscillation only by fine grid (Fig.5). The flow screenshots (when Cl(t) is stationary) (Fig. 6) clarify the reasons: using the coarse grid, two static vortexes are generated behind the deck, while using the fine grid, the same vortexes are generated, but they arent static, since they have a relative motion which generates a wake fluctuations that causes aerodynamic forces fluctuations. Comparing Fig. 3 with Fig. 6, one can see that FEM doesnt simulate the lower deck boundary layer separation bubble; furthermore FEM does not simulates the vortex shedding phenomenon: in fact the vortexes dissolve themselves before loosing in the wake.

Because of the mentioned sensibility to C SGS (kd in ADINA code) constant values, the LES approach needs a calibration/optimization process. When kd changes its value (always smaller than 1), also the Cl temporal value changes (Fig. 7). Optimized parameters had been chosen according to these points: 1. the Cl(t) function regularity (one wants to obtain a function with only one dominant frequency value) (Fig. 8), 2. mean Cl(t) value, 3. good physical phenomena simulation (one can compare the computed flow with the experimental flow) (Fig. 9)
0,40 0,30 0,20 0,10 0,00 2,0 -0,10 -0,20 -0,30

t'=t*U/B 4,0 6,0 8,0 10,0 12,0 14,0 16,0

Figure 7. LES: Cl(t) functions (zero angle of attack)



1,5 1,25 1 0,75 0,5 0,25 0 0 0,5 1 1,5 2

0,15 0,12 0,09 0,06


0,03 0 0 0,5 1 1,5





Figure 8. Cl(t) Fourier transform: kd=0.3 (a), kd=0.5 (b)

number is bigger than the LES one; anyway, both FEM and LES Strouhal numbers are within the literature computed values range (Fig. 10). On the deck, aerodynamic actions output values have been compared to: 1. the distribution of the mean pressure coefficient values Cp on deck surfaces (upper and lower) (Fig. 11), 2. the lift Polar (Fig. 12). About the Cp values (Fig. 11), on the upper surface, both FEM and LES values have good agreement with experimental data while on the lower surface both methods led to underestimate the depression for 0.2< x B <0.5. Compared to LES, FEM always overestimates pressure values on deck angles.



0,06 0,04 0,02 0 25 27 29 31 33 t (sec) 35






Ansys (FEM) Adina (LES) Lecterature min

FEM (Ansys)

LES (Adina)

Lecterature Max





Figure 10. FEM-LES: Cl(t) (a), Strouhal number (b)

1,5 1 0,5

Uppe r Surface


X/B 0 0 -0,5 -1 -1,5 -2 0,2 0,4 0,6 0,8 1

FEM (Ansys)

LES (Adina)


(d) Figure 9. LES: flow screenshots (zero angle of attack). kd = 0.2 (a); 0.3 (b); 0.4 (c); 0.5 (d)


Following these parameters, the value 0.3 results the optimum value for the constant kd. Adopting this value, the function Cl(t) appears regular, with mean value inside the range of literature values. One can see from the flow screenshot (Fig. 9) the physical phenomena like vortex shedding; the lower deck boundary layer separation bubble is computed with its size. In fact, the physical phenomena importance decreases when the kd value increases, so they are overestimated when kd =0.2 and they are underestimated when kd =0.5. Comparing LES and FEM, one sees that the mean value of Cl(t) and his oscillation amplitude computed by LES are bigger than the correspondent ones computed by FEM, while for the Strouhal number one has an opposite situation: the FEM Strouhal

1,5 1 0,5 0 0 -0,5 -1 -1,5 -2 -2,5 0,2 0,4 0,6 0,8 1

Lower S urface


FEM (Ansys)

LES (Adina)


Figure 11. FEM-LES: mean pressure coefficients (Cp) on the deck


1 0,8 0,6 0,4 0,2 0 -15 -10 -5 -0,2 -0,4 -0,6 -0,8 -1 0 5 10 15


a (deg)



FEM (Ansys)

LES (Adina)


Figure 12. FEM-LES: lift polar lines

About the polar line (Fig. 12), the most important design output, both methods have a good agreement with experimental data. One wants to highlight that, due to the large computational time required by fine grid computations, the Fig. 10 and the Fig. 11 are obtained by medium grid. 5.2 Aerodynamic influence of traffic barriers To evaluate the influence of particulars in bridge deck aerodynamic (traffic barriers) they have been modeled (Fig. 12). Viewing the near barriers stream flow (zero angle of attack) (Fig. 14), following the singular particle flow way, one can see that the flow deviations due to the barriers in LES are bigger than in FEM.



Figure 14. Near barriers flow (zero angle of attack). FEM (a), LES (b); left front (1), central barrier (2), right front (3).

About the polar line (Fig. 15), at low angle of attack ( 5 ) both methods had computed a lowering of the lift line due to the barriers, while at high angle of attack ( 10 ) the used methods are not in agreement. At negative angles, the outputs of methods about the barriers effect on the polar values have an opposite sign.
1,2 1 0,8 0,6 0,4 0,2 0 -15 -10 -5 -0,2 -0,4 -0,6 -0,8 -1
FEM (Ansys) w ithout barriers


a (deg)
0 5 10 15

FEM (Ansys) w ith barriers


Figure 13. Deck section modeling

1 0,8 0,6 0,4 0,2 0 -15 -10 -5 -0,2 -0,4 -0,6 -0,8 0


a (deg)
5 10 15



LES (Adina) w ithout barriers
LES (Adina) w ith barriers



1,2 1 0,8 0,6 0,4 0,2 0 -15 -10 -5 -0,2 -0,4 -0,6 -0,8 -1 0 5 10


a (deg)


FEM (Ansys) without barriers

LES (Adina) without barriers

FEM (Ansys) with barriers

LES (Adina) with barriers

(c) Figure 15. Traffic barrier influence on polar line. FEM (a), LES (b), FEM-LES (c)

In Fig. 15(c) one can see that both methods are in agreement only for 0 5 ; also, one can see that the traffic barriers introduction increases the disagreement of methods. Authors opinion is that the reliability of FEM results is better than the one of LES results: this is due to the Smagorinsky constant value (Par. 4.1.2) (or the equivalent ADINA constant kd). In fact, the optimum value of this constant was sought by the nude section configuration (Par. 5.1): it has an high dependence on the shape of the invested body; due to the high sensibility of LES method to this constant values (Fig. 7, 8, 9), the actual value could not be still the best with the barriers presence. 5.3 Vehicles aerodynamic influence Because of the not negligible aerodynamics influence of the traffic barriers, also the aerodynamic influence of big object presence (like vehicles) has been investigated. The vehicles have been modeled like shown in Fig. 16. By a view of stream flow screenshots (zero angle of attack) (Fig. 17, 18), one can see that in both methods the flow has been perturbed by the vehicles presence. Some big vortexes are generated around the body (deck plus vehicles): these vortexes are static in FEM output (medium grid had been used), but they arent static in LES output, such as in the nude section analyses. The vortex shedding is computed by LES (in Fig.18 the vortexes have varying position by time) and it is not computed by FEM. Also, one can see that the boundary layer size computed by LES is bigger than the one by FEM. About the polar line (Fig. 19), especially for negatives angle of attack, the methods have an evident disagreement: the previous considerations (Par. 5.2) about reliability of methods are valid here, too.

(b) Figure 16. Vehicles modeling. Global screenshot (a), particular screenshot (b)


t=t1 Figure 17. FEM: flow screenshot with vehicles (zero angle of attack)


t=t1 Figure 18. LES: flow screenshot with vehicles (zero angle of attack)


0,4 0,3 0,2 0,1 0 -15 -10 -5 -0,1 -0,2 -0,3 -0,4 -0,5 -0,6 0 5 10 15


a (deg)

The vehicles presence on the deck changes the flow configuration around the body; it generates a complex flow, especially behind the vehicles. At positive angles of attack, the lift polar values moved down. Because of this great aerodynamic influence, the authors think it will be important to study the relative vehicles position influence in future applications.

LES (Adina) with vehicles

FEM (Ansys) with vehicles

Figure 19. FEM-LES: lift polar lines with vehicles

The financial contribution of University of Rome La Sapienza, COFIN 2004 and the support of professors G. Augusti and M. Ciampoli is acknowledged. REFERENCES

6 CONCLUSIONS In this paper two kinds of aspects about aerodynamic of suspension bridge deck section have been investigated: 1. Computational aspects. With a computational fluid dynamic application on an existing bridge section, two of the more used solver methods have been compared: FEM (Finite Element Method with classic model of turbulence) using ANSYS code, and LES (Large Eddy Simulation) using ADINA code. 2. Structural aspects. Aerodynamic influence of: a. Deck particulars like traffic barriers b. Traffic vehicles presence About the computational aspects, the authors conclusions are: FEM has not a good computing of physical phenomena like vortex shedding and (by coarse grids) aerodynamics forces temporal fluctuations. On the other side, FEM has a very good computing of the mean numerical design values (polar lines and pressure coefficients). This method denotes a high robustness with regards to problem configuration and analysis parameters. LES has a good computing of both physical phenomena and mean numerical design values; however, it denotes a low robustness with regards to problem configuration and analysis parameters. So, LES need optimization (which is difficult without having experimental data). About the structural and aerodynamics aspects, the authors conclusions are: Especially at positive angles of attack, the traffic barriers downed the polar numerical values and the polar slope. At negative angles of attack, the barriers influence on the polar numerical values is better than at positive angles.

Bartoli G., Righi M., 2003. Flutter optimization of bridge decks: experimental and analytical procedure. ISEC-02. Bruno L., Mancini G., 2004. Importance of Deck details in Bridge Aerodynamics, Structural Engineering International, Volume 12, n 4. Bruno L., Khris S., 2002. The validity of 2D numerical simulations of vortical structures around bridge deck, Mathematical and Computer Modeling, n37. Fradsen J. B., 2002. Simultaneous pressures and accelerations measured full-scale on the Great Belt East suspension bridge. Journal of wind engineering and industrial aerodynamics, n89. Jones N.P., Scanlan R.H., Sarkar P.P., Singh L., 1995. The effect of section model details on aeroelastic parameters. Journal of wind engineering and industrial aerodynamics, n54/55. Jang Y., Quingyan Chen, 2002. Effects of fluctuating wind directions on cross natural ventilation in buildings from large eddy simulation. Buildings and environment, n37. Kuroda S., 1997. Numerical simulation of flow around a box girder of a long span suspension bridge. Journal of wind engineering and industrial aerodynamics, n67/68. Kuroda S., 1998. An application of Navier-Stokes simulation in bridge aerodynamics. Proceedings of the international symposium on aerodynamics/ Copenhagen/ Denmark/ 1013 May 1998. Morgenthal G. , Mcrogie A., Jang S. J., 2001. Numerical models for bridge deck aerodynamics and their validation. IABSE conference. Paneer Selvam R., 1998. Computational procedures in grid based computational bridge aerodynamics. Proceedings of the international symposium on aerodynamics/ Copenhagen/ Denmark/ 10-13. Petrini F., 2004. Metodi computazionali per la valutazione delle caratteristiche aerodinamiche delle sezioni di ponti sospesi. Graduate Thesis. Department of Structural and Geotechnical Engineering, University of Rome La Sapienza. Takeuchi T., Matsumoto M., 1998. Aerodynamic characteristic of the edge-girder for cabled-stayed bridges. I ponti a campata extralunga. Politecnico di Milano/ Milano/ Italy, Facolt di Ingegneria.