Aerodynamic Drag

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Aerodynamic Drag

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Flow Physics

o Viscous Drag

Laminar Flow Control

Compliant Walls

Riblets

Large-Eddy Breakup Devices

Surface Additives

o Drag due to Lift

o Interference Drag

o Wave Drag

o Vortex Drag

Drag due to Speed

o Drag at Very Low Speeds

o Drag at Transonic Speeds

o Drag at Supersonic Speeds

Drag Reduction Approaches

Methods of Computation

Summary of Drag Data

o CD of Various Aerodynamic Systems

o CD Levels of Misc. Aircraft

o CD Levels of Road Vehicles

Selected References

Drag force is a very large topic in aerodynamics. There are books and conferences

entirely devoted to it, along with countless specialized publications.

From a physical point of view, drag is the resultant of forces acting normally and

tangentially to a surface, the former ones being pressure terms, and the latter ones viscous

terms. The mechanism under which these forces are created is ultimately related to the

formation of vortices and shear layers.

Very narrow gains (1 % or less) can translate into a change of technology. It is widely

assumed that the fuel crisis of the 1970s created the need to invest in drag reduction

technology for aircraft transport. But the problem is wider than that, since all the

aerodynamic systems use external power that is partially dissipated due to drag forces.

Effects of Drag Reduction

For example, a reduction in the drag coefficient of an ordinary passenger car from CD =

0.4 to CD=0.3 would improve the fuel consumption by 7.5 %. This saving multiplied by

the number of road vehicles in Europe and North America yields a figure (at least 10

billion gallons/year) that could affect the price of the crude oil in the world markets.

The reduction of 10 % drag on a large military transport aircraft would save over 10

million gallons of fuel over the life time of the aircraft.

A 15 % drag reduction on the Airbus A340-300B would yield a 12 % fuel saving, other

parameters being constant (Mertens, 1998).

See the Table of Drag Data for more details.

Flow Physics

The fundamental mechanisms by which drag is produced in steady state conditions can

be reduced to the following ones

Viscous Drag

Viscous drag is produced by the effects of viscosity on the aerodynamic systems, through

the thrust that must be applied to overcome the shear layers due to the non slip condition.

Lift-induced Drag

Drag due to lift is the result of the downwash (vertical flow) and to the strength of the

vortices produced at some particular locations (wing tips or other sharp edges) of many

lifting systems.

Vortex Drag

Vortex drag can be created by both lifting and non lifting bodies (usually of the bluff

variety, ex. road vehicles, airships). Vortices are released during flow separatio and trail

downstream to form structured or unstructured wake patterns.

Interference

Interference is the effect of the presence of one body on the aerodynamics of a second

body. The interference drag is a system drag that is present even in absence of viscous

effects (ideal fluid) and non lifting conditions. Since interference occurs in many practical

situations interference drag is a separate topic.

Wave Drag

Wave drag is created by radiation of disturbances in the fluid by a moving body. This is

the case of transonic and supersonic flows; in hydrodynamics waves are produced by

several means, the most important of which is probably the pattern of surface waves

produced by boats, ships and submerged bodies.

The presence of one or more drag components, along with their respective amounts,

clearly depends on the aerodynamic arrangement and the system operation.

Speed-induced Drag

Another classification sometimes used is that according to speed. The speed (e.g

Reynolds and Mach numbers) have, in fact, one of the most important effects on both the

drag build-up and the drag level.

The most effective approach to drag reduction is to concentrate on the components that

make up the largest percentage of the overall drag. Small improvements on large

quantities can become in fact remarkable aerodynamic improvements. This is another

reason why the drag build-up analysis is always made before attempting to study the drag

reduction strategies.

Methods of Computation

There are several methods used to compute the drag of a lifting body. For example:

The drag of an airfoil at subsonic speeds can be computed by using the SquireYoung approximation. The method consists in evaluating the drag coefficient by

using boundary layer quantities at the trailing edge.

planes far upstream and downstream the body).

By integration of the surface forces (CFD approach). There are two contributions:

the tangential (due to skin friction) and normal (due to pressure) contributions.

This is the approach followed most by the current research.

Other (simplified) methods include: Integration of circulation in the Treffz plane (induced

drag of large aspect ratio wings); Hayes formula (for linearized supersonic flow); Munk's

stagger theorems (for linearized multi-body lifting systems), etc. A detailed review of

CFD capabilities has been recently published by van Dam (1999).

Selected References

AGARD, Special Course on Concepts for Drag Reduction, AGARD Report R654, 1977.

AGARD, Special Course on Subsonic/Transonic Aerodynamic Intereference

for Aircraft, AGARD Report R-712, 1983.

AGARD, Aircraft Drag Prediction and Reduction, AGARD Report R-723,

1985.

Clift R, Grace JR, Weber ME. Bubbles, Drops, and Particles, Academic Press,

New York, 1978.

Sovran G, Morel T, Mason WT. (editors). Aerodynamic Drag Mechanisms of

Bluff Bodies and Road Vehicles, Plenum Press, New York, 1978 (ISBN 0-30631119-4).

Viscous drag (or skin friction drag) is due to the stresses on the aerodynamic surfaces

and in the boundary layer. The decreased momentum in the flowfield results in a

corresponding loss of momentum of the aerodynamic system. Some of the physical

aspects involved in the viscous drag loss are: presence of shear layers, turbulent

transition, boundary layer separation.

The amount of energy losses depends largely on the aero- hydrodynamic system. On a

sailing boat it can range between 1/3 and (nearly) the total drag, depending on the speed

of the craft (at low speeds the viscous drag is large, in percent, whereas the wave drag is

low). Some typical viscous losses are listed below:

Table 1: Summary of viscous drag

supersonic fighter

25-30 %

40 %

executive aircraft

50 %

VTOL aircraft

underwater bodies

ships at low/high speed

gas pipelines

70-80 %

70 %

90-30 %

90 %

Reduction Methods

Methods for viscous drag reduction rely on techniques that alter the turbulence structure

and/or the wall characteristics. These methods are both powered (active methods) and

unpowered. Active methods widely used include

Wall cooling (air), or heating (water)

The are also the passive methods, such as vortex generators, along with appropriate

design of the aerodynamic surfaces, by minimizing the wetted area and the volume. Other

sophisticated techniques include:

Compliant Walls

Riblets

Large-Eddy Breakup Devices (LEBU)

Surface Additives (polymers, bubbles)

Selected References

AGARD. Special Course on Concepts for Drag Reduction, AGARD Report R654, 1977.

AGARD. Special Course on Subsonic/Transonic Aerodynamic Intereference

for Aircraft, AGARD Report R-712, 1983.

AGARD. Aircraft Drag Prediction and Reduction, AGARD Report R-723,

1985.

Laminar Flow Control (LFC) describes technical means to control the boundary layer

development. Laminar flow control consists in a boundary layer suction (that is removal

of some flow through surface holes), or a wall cooling. A more unusual technique

consists in using resonant walls.

A boundary layer usually changes from laminar to turbulent, due to disturbances in the

viscous layer (Tollmien-Schlichting waves) that amplify. Amplification, though, occurs

only if certain stability criteria (depending on Reynolds number, free-stream turbulence,

surface conditions, forced vibrations, etc.) are not satisfied.

Boundary layer stability is a large topic on its own. We will limit the following

considerations to a few practical aspects of LFC. Boundary layer suction requires a

propulsion system that consumes energy. The method is effective if the power required to

activate the LFC system is less the power saved thanks to the boundary layer control.

The normal velocity required to suck part of the boundary layer are very small and have

no macroscopic effect on the surface pressure distribution. The surface must be of

superior quality and with minimum roughness, the normal suction must be as uniform as

possible, to avoid further distortions in the flow structure.

Table 1 lists a number of results achieved with LFC wings (Pfenninger, 1977).

Table 1: Subsonic/supersonic wing CD with LFC

Device

Sweep

Re x

CD x

Subsonic Wing

30 deg

0.75

Subsonic Wing

0.0 deg

10

0.75

Supersonic Wing

35 deg

20

3.00

Related Material

Riblets

Large-Eddy Break-up Devices

Compliant Walls

Wall Cooling

Selected References

Press, 1961.

The complaint wall is a relatively recent idea to reduce the drag by using

flexible coatings on the aero- hydrodynamic surfaces. The idea of flexible

skins comes from observations on swimming dolphins, and more generally

on animal propulsion.

The compliant wall must interact with the boundary layer and influence its

development, laminar or turbulent. If this has to be true, the wavelength of

the skin flexibility must be of the same order of magnitude of the

boundary layer thickness, while the amplitude must be of the same order

as the viscous sublayer.

The idea is that, when the surface is affected by fluid flow around it, it will

start an interaction surface-boundary layer such that the boundary layer

remains attached for a longer length and the drag of the system will be

reduced.

The problem, however, is not so easy. The properties of the compliant

surface must be well understood, else the effect is ... the opposite (that is a

compliant surface that triggers boundary layer separation).

Some energy conmsiderations are necessary: In the case of a rigid surface,

the drag produced serves to dissipate propulsion power into the fluid (by

means of of viscosity, radiation, etc.); in the case of a passive compliant

surface part of this energy goes into the surface itself and is dissipated

through internal damping; with an active compliant surface power would

be required to activate the surface-boundary layer interaction (for

example, heating of the coating to activate its compliant properties).

Therefore, the fundamental question is whether the net energy balance is

positive or negative.

Riblets

Summary

Drag Reduction

Off-Design Performances

o Flow Mis-alignment

o Surface Contamination

o Effects of Pressure Gradients

o Effects of Wetted Area

Applications

o Aircraft

Selected References

Scientists have been speculating for many years whether there is any surface having less

drag of a flat plate. The drag of a flat plate is reported in the figure below, for both

laminar (Blasius) and turbulent flow.

Experimental studies in the 1970s showed that small grooves (riblets) aligned with the

flow had the property of modifying the near-wall structure of the boundary layer. In

particular, the riblets proved to work as a constraint to the production of the Reyonlds

stresses associated with the growth and eruption of the eddies in the the low-speed

regions of the boundary layers.

Later research was aimed at investigating the properties of such grooves, by studying the

wall boundary conditions and the flow properties at corner regions. A number of studies

of zoologic nature was added to the fluid dynamic problem, by studying the

characteristics of fast-swimming sharks and dolphins, form where some ideas were

derived.

On of the main practical concerns was (and it is) the amount of drag reduction that can be

achieved, and studies were directed to investigating the optimum ratio fin-height/riblet

spacing, physical dimensions of the riblets, along with the optimum shape (L- U- Vgrooves and others, Fig. 1).

Drag Reduction

The skin friction drag reduction data published in the technical literature is variable, but

converging to a figure of 8 %, with more conservative values of 5 % to the most

optimistic figures of 10-11 %, obtained in laboratory conditions. While these numbers do

not seem excessively high, they do lead to enourmous savings.

Take for example a subsonic jet transport, for which the skin friction drag is of the order

of 45 % at cruise conditions. If half of the surface could be covered by efficient riblets

that provide an 8 % skin friction saving, the total saving would be just less than 4 %, a

remarkable amount.

Off-Design Performances

Flow alignment and surface quality are two main concerns, alogn with pressure gradients,

three-dimensional flows and effects of the increased wetted area. The results are as

follows:

Flow Mis-Alignment

No practical effects weere measured on flow mis-alignement up to 15 deg ( 0 deg is a

flow perfectly aligned with the riblet). At higher flow angles, up to 40 deg, performances

deteriorate gradually, and the riblets become ineffective, if not inappropriate, at such

angles. For these reasons some investigators have been studying three-dimensional

riblets, also called compound riblets, that would be locally optimized to follow the main

direction of the flow.

Surface Contamination

The surface covered with a riblet film may undergo contamination over time, due to

deposition of dust, combustion particulate, atmospheric aggression, etc. This can be a

major concern for submerged bodies, such as ships and submarines. However, there

seems to be no effects for periods limited to one day, whereas in aircraft applications the

effects, if any, occur over a much longer time scale.

Pressure Gradients

Pressure gradients have a minor effect, probably 1-2 % on the total skin friction drag

reduction.

Increase of Wetted Area

Increase of wetted area is a problem of any riblet geometry (see figure 1 above), therefore

useful configurations are those that, besides stabilizing the boundary layer, have a limited

increase in wetted area. Obviously, the skin friction works over a larger surface (this is a

problem especially with L-grooves.)

Applications

Applications are more common in hydrodynamics where the drag reduction possibilities

are larger, in particular on sailing boats. Airfoil applications showed a drag reduction rate

of about 6-8 %, although in some recent experiments a skin friction drag reduction of 16

% was achieved at an angle of attack of 6 deg.

Aircraft

Skin friction drag for a large commercial aircraft is of the order of 40 % of the total. This

figure is slighty larger for a smaller executive airfract (up to 50 %). Small gains on this

numbers translate into major fuel savings and direct operative costs.

One can easily speculate with the 10 % drag saving given above, but this is very far from

reality. Both Boeing Aircraft and Airbus have tested riblets for this purpose. Data

reported for a 1/11 scale model of the Airbus A320 at cruise Mach number M=0.7 was a

viscous drag saving of 4.85 %, with about 66 % of the aircraft wetted area covered by Vriblets (s/h=1).

Application of riblets is generally done using special films, rather than estruding the

grooves directly on the surface. Riblet films have been manifactured by a number of

companies, among them, the 3M company.

The riblets dimensions most widely tested fall in the range 0.02mm - 0.10 mm height,

with optimal h/s ratio of the order 15.

Related Material

Compliant Walls

Laminar Flow Control

Additives

Wall Cooling

Selected References

1. Emerging Techniques in Drag Reduction, edited by Choi, K.S., Prasad, K.K. and

Truong, T.V.

Mechanical Eng. Publ. Ltd, London, 1996 (ISBN 0-08529-8917-2)

2. Drag Reduction in Fluid Flows: Techniques for Friction Control, by Sellin RHJ,

Moses RT.

Ellis Horwood Ltd, Chichester, 1989 (ISBN 0-7458-0753-X)

3. Bechert DW, Bruse M, Hage W, VanderHoeven JGT, Hoppe G. Experiments on

drag-reducing surfaces and their optimization with an adjustable geometry, in J.

Fluid Mech., Vol. 338, pp. 59-87 May 10 1997

4. Walsh MJ. Riblets, in Progress in Aeronautics and Astronautics, Vol. 123, 1990.

On the Web

These sites are not part of the aerodyn.org domain. There is no guarantee nor

control over their content and availability.

Scientific American Article, Jan. 1997 (general)

LEBU, similarly to the surface riblets, produce extensive downstream regions of reduced

skin friction coefficients. However, the experimental data gathered over the last twenty

years provided widely varying results, which are also depending on the Reynolds number.

The overall performance seems to be related to the drag of the devices themselves. The

best drag reduction rates (in percentage) are not better than the surface riblets, roughly 7

to 8 percent. Among these, the tapered trailing edge devices have been found among the

best.

Cases of interest include trailing edge flows, for examples thick flat plates and airfoils,

where trailing edge separation is an issue at relatively large Reynolds numbers. Some

NACA 0009 LEBU devices were found to provide a local net skin friction reduction in

the range of 30 percent. Similar experiments on cambered NACA 4409 gave no benefits,

possibly because of boundary layer separation on the devices themselves.

LEBU performance at the higher Reynolds numbers and transonic conditions often

required in aeronautics is strongly dependent on the drag of the devices. Their

effectiveness is presumably much reduced at these conditions.

In some instances the LEBU have been coupled with the riblets, but the optimal

combination of these systems requires experimentation.

Related Material

Compliant Walls

Laminar Flow Control

Additives

Wall Cooling

[Top of Page]

Surface Additives

Selected References

Surface additives such as polymers, microbubbles and solid particles have been

particularly studied in recent years, due to their virtue of reducing the aero/ hydrodinamic

drag by inhibiting the fundamental processes that cause turbulent transition (Berman,

1978).

Effects on Viscous Drag

The effect becomes evident at just a few parts-per- million (ppm), and gradually increases

to values that depend on the molecular nature of the dilute suspension. The molecular

weight seems to be playing an important part in the drag reduction characteristics. Most

of the additives used are polymers of high molecular weight (for ex. polyetylene-oxide).

There are reports of as much as 80 % skin friction drag reduction in internal flows, and

60 % in external flows ! - Such values open up fantastic opportunities for both pipelines

and marine applications (high speed vehicles, submarines).

For example long polymers derived from alfa-olefins are used for drag reduction in

commercial pipelines for crude oil and refined oil products (gasoline, diesel, etc.).

Pipeline performance is greatly enhanced with the injection of the polymer at each

pumping station.

The dilute solution may vary from 1 ppm (part-per-million) to several ppm. Drag savings

of 25-30 % (sometimes more) are reported. This means that at constant pumping power,

there is a corresponding increase in throughput, or at constant throughput the pumping

power can be reduced (by reducing for example the number of pumping stations).

In aircraft applications the drawback, though, would be the amount of additives that must

be released from the surface and the power required to run the system.

Related Material

Riblets

Large-Eddy Break-up Devices

Compliant Walls

Laminar Flow Control

Wall Cooling

Selected References

Emerging Techniques in Drag Reduction, edited by Choi KS, Prasad KK, Truong

TV. Mechanical Eng. Publ. Ltd, London, 1996 (ISBN 0-08529-8917-2)

Drag Reduction in Fluid Flows: Techniques for Friction Control, by Sellin, RHJ,

Moses RT.

Ellis Horwood Ltd, Chichester, 1989 (ISBN 0-7458-0753-X)

Lift-induced Drag

Summary

Selected References

(induced drag or vortex drag) and is expressed as momentum deficiency

in the wake. This type of drag can be a drawback of high-lift systems.

Typically, a strong vortex is released at the tip.

The dissipation of this vortex farther downstream is one of the source of

loss, but this is of viscous nature. The inviscid nature of the drag is also

due to the downwash created in the slipstream, which on turns is related

Reduction Methods

Methods used for the minimization of the induced drag make use of

techniques to diffuse this vortex and redistribute the wing loading. The

methods include:

Use of non-planar lifting systems

Load redistribution by wing optimization

For lifting wings some of the devices commonly designed are the

following

Tip Devices

Winglets

Tip sails

Hoerner Tips

The methods listed above are used for the reduction of the vortex drag

produced at the tip.

Selected References

1965.

AGARD. Special Course on Concepts for Drag Reduction,

AGARD Report R-654, 1977.

AGARD. Special Course on Subsonic/Transonic Aerodynamic

Intereference for Aircraft, AGARD Report R-712, 1983.

AGARD. Aircraft Drag Prediction and Reduction, AGARD

Report R-723, 1985.

[Top of Page]

The use of larger aspect-ratios is a well known means to reduce the

induced drag, that is the drag created by the spanwise distribution of

circulation, ultimately due to the development of two strong tip vortices.

From three-dimensional small disturbance theory it is found that the

optimum distribution of circulation is the one that creates a constant

downwash velocity if the slipstream (wake). With this distribution of

downwash velocity, the spanwise lift distribution is elliptic, and the

induced drag is at a minimum. If the wing planform is also elliptic, there

is a closed expression relating the lift to the induced drag.

Fig. 1 shows the behavior of the induced drag coefficient as a function of

the wing aspect-ratio at two lift levels, from the small disturbance theory

(Since this theory was developed for large aspect-ratio wings, values of

CDi for aspect-ratios less than 5 are rather off.)

The actual aspect-ratio is a compromise between conflicting

requirements. For example, for a transport aircraft the optimal aspectratio would be around 8 for minimum cost acquisition, and twice as

much for minimum fuel consumption.

A fighter aircraft has a low aspect-ratio for manouvrability. Sail planes,

human powered planes, high altitude airplanes have a very large wing

span, but have poor manouvrability characteristics. The table below

provides some typical values.

Table 1: Some Aspect-Ratios

System

Supersonic Jet Aircraft

AR

2.0

Fighter Aircraft

Subsonic Jet Aircraft

Lockeed U-2

2.8

2.5-3.5

7-9

11.3

Sail Planes

20

26

Related Material

Wing Tip Devices

Summary of Aspect-Ratios

Planform Optimization

Tip Blowing

These sites are not part of the aerodyn.org domain. There is no control over their

content or availability.

Interference Drag in

Aerodynamics

Summary

Overview

Roughness Drag

Junction Drag

Selected References

wing-body, wing-nacelle (Fig. 1), vertical-horizontal tail, junctions in

general, biplane, ground effect, freee surface problems in hydrodynamics, and more.

When Interference Occurs

Interference occurs when the sum of the drag forces of the single

components is larger that the drag of the composite system. In general,

interference is a reciprocal effect, although in some cases (such as

supersonic flows) it can be unidirectional (downstream propagation

only.) Interference at supersonic speeds can be excessively high.

speeds.

Aerodynamic interference on wing-body combinations has been widely

investigated at subsonic, transonic and supersonic speeds. Recent

research on supersonic aircraft (Kharitonov, 1998) has allowed to

determine the optimal position of the wing by systematic analysis of the

interference coefficients.

Interference at Low Speeds

Interference at low speed can be computed with some approximate yet

powerful methods: Munk's stagger theorem gives the value of the

induced drag for an arbitrary system of lifting lines; Prandtl's theory

allows to compute the biplane configuration; the inviscid flow models

resulting in the panel methods allow the computation of quite general

multi-body configurations, including ducted propellers.

Roughness Drag

The most common interference effects arise from imperfections, small

scale bumps, holes and other irregularities (Fig. 4 below), due to surface

finish, accumulated dirt, etc. Roughness/excrescence drag can be

virtually eliminated when the surface is hydraucally smooth, e.g. the

excrescence height is less than the boundary layer sublayer thickness.

Some typical drag values are the following: cylinder excrescence

CD=0.76, semi-sphere CD=0.32.

Junction Drag

Important data on junction drag have been compiled by Hoerner (1965).

Particularly important is the T-strut configuration, for which some

technical solutions with fairings yield as much as 94 % drag saving.

Methods for reducing the interference effects include accurate

streamlining, and proper system design. Sometimes it is possible to take

advantage of the interference effects (using appropriate strakes, for

example) to reduce the system drag to values below the sum of the single

components. A typical example taken from the natural world is the birds

formation flight.

Related Material

Selected References

AGARD Report R-654, 1977.

AGARD. Special Course on Subsonic/Transonic Aerodynamic

Intereference for Aircraft, AGARD Report R-712, 1983.

AGARD. Aircraft Drag Prediction and Reduction, AGARD

[Top of Page]

Copyright A. Filippone (1999-2002). All Rights Reserved.

Wave Drag

Summary

Overview

Selected References

Wave drag in aerodynamics is drag associated with the shock wave and shock-induced

separation. This type of drag appears at transonic and supersonic speeds. The drag from

acoustic waves is always negligible. The problem is more general in hydrodynamics,

since wave propagation occurs at all speeds for all types of sailing vessels and for most

cases of submerged bodies.

There are several ways of dealing with wave drag: use of transonic/supersonic area ruling

for wing-body combinations; use of supercritical airfoils, thin wing sections, wing sweep,

low-aspect ratio wings, boundary layer control, blunt leading edge (at hypersonic speeds).

Less orthodox methods include oblique and anti-symmetric wings (wings never built, in

fact).

At transonic speeds some of the main concerns are: driving the drag divergence upward,

removing the buffeting and the possible shock stall.

At supersonic and hypersonic speeds a few peculiar problems appear: namely,

aerotherodynamic heating, and structural stiffness compatible with volume distribution

and wing thickness.

Methods of analysis have long relied on linearized potential theories. At hypersonic

speeds Newtonian theories are still common.

Related Material

Supercritical Airfoils

Oblique Flying Wing

Drag at Supersonic Speeds

Wave Propagation

Vortex Drag

Summary

Generalities

Splitter Plates

Ventilated Cavities

Tangential Slots

Fences

Boat-tailed after-bodies

Selected References

separation from a bluff body, etc.). For this reason it is also called form

drag or pressure drag.

Separation and related effects cannot be avoided on bluff bodies and

particular situations of streamlined bodies (most road vehicles, aircraft

after bodies). Separation is generally associated with adverse pressure

gradients.

The pressure field in the separated areas is lower than it would be in

presence of a boundary layer. The low pressure field at the base of the

body is the origin of the base drag. Specific vortex drag reduction

techniques are listed below.

The technology presented below is intended for subsonic speeds. Vortex

drag reduction at supersonic speeds are far less successful.

Splitter Plates

The mechanism by which the device works is the movement of the

separation vortex downstream, away from the body. Fig. 1. below shows

the artrangement of a 3D bluff body. Splitter plates have also been

applied to airfoils and wings.

Ventilated cavities

These are thin surfaces mounted at the edge of the base. Regular slots

are cut through, that allow for ventilation of the low pressure separated

field. Horizontal vented cavities are sometimes applied to passenger

cars.

Tangential slots

As shown in Fig. 4, they are used to accelerate slow air flow behind a

corner (they are used on commercial vehicles of all sizes.)

shown.

The acceleration of the slot flow serves to push flow that has been

slowed down by the abrupt change of direction.

Fences

The use of fences on after-bodies is sometimes justified by the need to

redirect the flow streamlines. The effect is to remove the flow separation.

An example is shown in the figure below, that is an aircraft after-body.

Fences are also used on the main wing to redirect the boundary layer

flow. These devices can be found in most of the 1st generation of

commercial jets (for example, Vickers VC-10, BAC 1-11, Trident) and in

some early military aircraft (MiG-17). Fig. 5 below shows the large

fence on the wing of the Hawker-Siddeley Trident 2.

Museum, England).

Boat-tailed afterbodies

Such afterbodies are streamlined and designed for optimal shape.

Base drag reduction rates of 50 % (at subsonic speeds) can be achieved

with the devices listed above.

For lifting wings some of the devices commonly designed are the

following:

Vortex Generators

Wall Suction

Wall jets

As dimples on sports ball, used to promote turbulent transition, which

shifts the drag crisis of the bluff body to a lower speed. There is an

amount of research available on this particular topic (for ex. Metha,

1985).

Related Material

Selected References

Pergamon Press, 1961.

Hoerner SF. Fluid Dynamic Drag, Hoerner Fluid Dynamics,

1965.

Tanner M. "Reduction of Base Drag", in Progress in Aerospace

Sciences, Vol. 16, No. 4, 1975.

Chang PK. Separation of Flow, Pergamon Press, 1966.

[Top of Page]

Speed-related Drag

Summary

o Flat Plate Drag

o Cylinder Drag

o Sphere Drag

Drag at Very Low Speeds

Drag at Transonic Speeds

Drag at Supersonic Speeds

Typical Drag Coefficients

Selected References

This is a major problem in all aerodynamic systems. Laminar boundary

layers are characterized by minimum skin friction drag. Laminar boundary

layers are generally assumed to keep laminar at Reynolds numbers

, to

be transitional at about

, and turbulent above this value.

The actual transitional Reynolds numbers may depend on the specific case

and several side constraints.

Flat plate, circular cylinder, sphere and cones have been widely studied

over the years, and the amount of data collected is staggering: in particular

drag data are available from the smallest Reynolds numbers (unity and

below), to the largest Mach numbers (hypersonic speeds). The data

witness the importance of this set of bodies as a limiting case of real life

problems.

Flat Plate Drag

The effect of the velocity (or Reynolds number) on the behavior of the

drag coefficient of a flat plate for both laminar and turbulent

incompressible flow is shown in the figure below. The turbulent drag has

been computed with various theories (von Krmn-Schoenerr, PrandtlSchlichting, White).

Current laminar wings have drag coefficients closer to the laminar curve

(Blasius theory) than to the turbulent curve. The problem is, however, far

more complex, since real-life flows involve a range of Reynolds numbers

with transitional boundary layers. The laminar curve in Fig. 1, though, can

be considered a practical barrier of the skin friction drag.

The effect of turbulent transition on the flat plate drag coefficient is shown

schematically in Fig 2. (incompressible flow)

At transonic and supersonic speeds the problem is complicated by the

temperature gradient in the boundary layer. Semi-empirical correlations of

the type shown above have been proposed (Green, Hoerner, WinterGaudet, etc.) to reduce the compressible skin friction coefficient to an

incompressible one by using the free stream Mach number.

Flat plate drag calculations at supersonic Mach numbers were first

performed by van Driest, 1952. For details on high speed drag on a flat

plate see White, 1974.

Circular Cylinder

There is a large body of investigations on cylinders at all speeds and all

aspect ratios, with fixed or rotating bodies. The infinite cylinder (e.g.

cylinder of very large L/D) is one of the most amusing problems in fluid

dynamics. Its rational study was first performed by von Krmn (1911),

who investigated the appearance of the so called vortex trail (or vortex

street), while studying the advantages of streamlined bodies for drag

reduction.

The following considerations will be restricted to the drag characteristics

as function of the Reynolds number. Fig. 3 below shows a classic

summary of cylinder drag coefficients, from the creeping flow domain

(see below) to large Reynolds numbers. Speeds are intended as subsonic at

all cases. The data show a drag crisis at about Re=500,000.

Figu

re 3: Cylinder CD at subsonic speeds

The technical literature reports a large number of semi-empirical formulas

for the CD. The experimental drag of Fig. 3 can be fitted with a simple

equation.

The finite cylinder is not less interesting. Actually, it features a great

variety of wake flow patterns, instabilities and drag coefficients

(Williamson, 1996).

Sphere Drag

Fig. 4 shows the behavior of the drag coefficient for a sphere at subsonic

speeds. The surface finish has been found of extreme importance in

imparting aerodynamic characteristics. The two curves on the graphic

refer to two different surface conditions. When the surface is rough,

turbulent transition occurs earlier, and so does the drag drop. This feature

is fully exploited in golf balls (Metha, 1985).

Experiments on spheres have been perfomed up to M=12.15 in freon (to

the author's knowledge.) The figure below shows the CD behavior at

supersonic and hypersonic speeds (data elaborated from Cox-Crabree,

1965).

Very low speeds are characteristic of flows at Reynolds numbers less than

a 50,000. Some airfoils still work as at Reynolds numbers as low as

range is also that of the model airplanes, micro-propellers, and micro-air

vehicles (MAV).

Creeping Flows

At lower speeds we find many insects. Flows at Re < 10 are also called

creeping flows, which are not considered properly aerodynamic. The drag

characteristics at low speeds are strongly affected by the laminar

separation and by viscous skin friction, according to a physics explained

in the low speed chapter.

The drag coefficient can take very unusually high values, that are

approximated with the Oseen formula at Re < 1 and by the Klaycho

formula at Re < 400. For extensive low Reynolds data consult Clift et. al,

1978.

Drag reduction at low speeds is a very open problem in aerodynamics, that

only recently has become object of analysis, mainly spurred by

technological advances in solar powered flight, high altitude flight,

unmanned vehicles, model airplains, and more.

At transonic speeds there are local buckets of supersonic flow delimited

by shock waves. Shock waves and shock-induced boundary layer

separation are a consistent source of drag at these speeds. A typical

example of how the drag increases is given by the divergence Mach

number for a airfoil section (below)

At a certain Mach number that depends on the airfoil and the angle of

attack, a wave drag starts to build up because of the increasing effect of

the shock wave. Once the flow is fully supersonic, the drag coefficient

falls. The climb shown in Fig. 6 can be pushed toward higher Mach

numbers with supercritical airfoils.

Airfoils at Transonic Speeds

A case of particular interest is that of the airfoil section, whose transonic

drag rise is dependent on the angle of attack. An example is shown in Fig.

7 below.

Military Aircraft

Military aircraft feature external stores and weapons systems that can

change dramatically the performance of the aircraft. Here only a

comparative effect will be shown for some selected configurations, Fig. 8.

Methods for reducing the drag at transonic speeds include the use of

Thin Airfoils

Supercritical Airfoils

Boundary Layer Control

Transonic Area Rule

As in the case of lower speeds, drag is produced by viscosity and vorticity

release. There is one more component, called wave drag, peculiar to

supersonic flows. In general the total drag will consists of the skin friction

(viscous) drag, the induced drag (as in subsonic flows), the (supersonic)

drag due to volume, and the (supersonic) wave drag due to lift.

Supersonic flows are considered well behaved and more stable, as

compared with transonic flows, because the problem of the shock at the

wall is eliminated.

Effect of Nose Bluntness

Bodies of minimum drag at supersonic and hypersonic speeds have a

blunted nose. The radius of a blunt body is an essential parameter in

determining the heat flux.

Supersonic Area Rule

The problem of computing and minimizing the wave drag is fairly

complicated, because of several different sources (listed above), and

because of conflicting constraints.

A general practice is the supersonic area ruling: The wave drag is

minimized if the distribution of cross-sectional area along the longitudinal

axis is a smooth function. The combination of wing-body interference, in

fact, can be reduced to a slender body optimum drag problem, for which

the solution is known (Sears-Haack, 1947; von Krmn, 1948).

Elliptic Wings

The wave drag due to lift is minimized when the loading on each oblique

plane is elliptical. The wave drag due to volume is at a minimum when

each equivalent body of revolution (opportunely defined) is a SearsHaack body.

Overall minimum induced drag can be obtained with an oblique wing of

elliptical planform having elliptical loading (R.T. Jones, von Krmn).

Elliptical loading distribution can be obtained by twisting the wing.

Another approach to drag minimization is the use of flow-reversal

theorems ( von Krmn, Hayes, Jones, Graham et. al.). See AshleyLandhal, 1965, for details.

Related Material

Bodies of Minimum Wave Drag

Theodore von Krmn

Selected References

Hoerner SF, Fluid Dynamic Drag, Hoerner Fluid Dynamics,

1965.

AGARD, Aircraft Drag Prediction and Reduction, AGARD

Report R-723, 1985.

Ashley H, Landhal M, Aerodynamics of Wings and Bodies,

Addison-Wesley, Reading, MA, 1963.

Clift R, Grace JR, Weber ME, Bubbles, Drops, and Particles,

Academic Press, New York, 1978.

[Top of Page]

Summary

Flow Phenomena

Maximum Lift

o Boundary Layer Control

Vortex Lift

High-Lift Systems

o Powered vs. Unpowered Systems

High-Lift Airfoils

Pressure Distribution

Multi-element Airfoils

Design Issues for High-Lift

Trailing- and Leading Edge Devices

Computational Methods

Tables of Maximum CL

Selected References

o

pressure and viscous contributions. The weight of the pressure component

is generally far more important; when the viscous component is effective,

it works as to reduce the total amount of lift obtainable by an aerodynamic

system.

High lift systems are required in aeronautics to produce higher

maneuverability, for higher endurance under engine failure, for lower

take-off and landing speed, higher pay-load, for aircraft weight

constraints, maximum engine power limits, etc.

High lift systems are of the utmost importance in human powered flight,

unpowered gliding, etc. High lift systems are also used (differently) in

racing cars and competition sailing boats.

The picture below shows the cargo plane C-17 Globemaster with high lift

system in operation during a slow landing phase.

Flow Phenomena

Flow phenomena of multi-element wings include: wakes from upstream

elements merging with fresh boundary layers on downstream elements;

flow separation in the the cove regions; flow separation on the

downstream elements, especially at high angles (landing configurations);

confluent boundary layers; high- curvature wakes; high flow deflection;

possible supercritical flow in the upstream elements, see figure below.

Two boundary layers are confluent when they develop on different solid

surface and come together (generally at a different stage of development).

Confluent boundary layers can be identified by studying the local velocity

field. Flow separation occurs in cove regions because of the high curvature

associated with locally high speed. High speed can also be the reason of

supercritical regimes in aircraft configurations.

Maximum Lift

The maximum lift obtainable by a single/multi element wing (or by more

complicated devices) is generally attributed to flow separation on the

suction side, and on the maximum suction peak. The two problems are

somewhat dependent.

Airfoil characteristics that have a strong effect on the maximum lift

coefficient are: camber and thickness distributions, surface quality, leading

edge radius, trailing edge angle.

CLmax also depends on the Reynolds number. At a fixed Reynolds

number, the operation on the above parameters must remove or delay the

flow separation, and delay the pressure recovery on the suction side, along

with a number of other details.

Prediction of Maximum Lift

Accurate prediction of the maximum lift coefficient for an airfoil or wing

is still considered an open problem in computational aerodynamics. This

difficulty is due to the approximation of the boundary layer conditions at

various stages of turbulent transition and separation, besides the proper

modeling of the turbulent separated flows.

An empirical formula correlating wing CLmax of a swept wing to the

main geometric parameters of the high-lift system was derived at the

Research Aeronautical Establishment (RAE, UK) in the late 1970s. More

recent work was done at McDonnell- Douglas (Valarezo-Chin, 1994).

Vortex Lift

The lift force from a wing can be augmented by appropriate manipulation

of separation vortices. Basically, this can be done in two ways: with highly

swept wings (delta wings) and strakes. The longitudinal vortex has the

effect of shifting the stagnation point on the suction surface of the wing

(Pohlamus, 1971).

High-Lift Systems

High lift can be produced by aerodynamic design of single components,

design of entire systems, integration of already existing systems, ad hoc

technical solutions. The most important methods are the following:

Multi-element lifting systems

Boundary Layer Control

Propulsive Lift

Other Technical Solutions

There is a broad classification among all high lift systems: that is between

powered and unpowered. The range of applications in aviation is discussed

below. The data collected in the figure below have been elaborated from

Airbus research (Flaig and Hilbig, 1993). Performances of the C-17 and

the YC-14 have been guessed.

Nomenclature

SSF=single-slotted flap;

DSF=double-slotted flap;

TSF=triple-slotted flap;

LED=leading-edge device.

High-Lift Airfoils

In order to obtain high lift from an airfoil the designer must increase the

area enclosed by the pressure coefficient (Cp), that is: the pressure on the

lower side must be as high as possible (pressure side), the pressure on the

upper side must be as low as possible (suction side). The latter

requirement is in fact the most difficult to fulfill, because low pressure is

created through high speed, and high speed triggers flow separation. Flow

separation can be limited at high speed by turbulent transition.

Pressure Distribution

One idea commonly used in design is to control the pressure distribution

on the upper side as to maintain the flow at the edge of separation.

The more separation is delayed the higher the lift coefficient. This is

obtained through a flat top and a gradual pressure recovery (Stratford

recovery). Airfoils designed with this approach can exhibit aerodynamic

efficiencies L/D of up to 300 !

Multi-Element Airfoils

Generally speaking, a multi-element airfoil consists of a main wing and a

number of leading- and trailing-edge devices. The use of multi-element

wings is a very effective method to increase the maximum lift of an

aerodynamic system.

The Slat

The first element to be added to a main wing was a leading edge slat

(Handley-Page, Lachmann, 1917). The solution worked, but it was not

clear how. For many years is was assumed that the leading-edge slat was a

boundary layer control device (Betz, 1920).

Smith (1972) proved that the slat is so effective because of its strong effect

on the inviscid pressure distribution.

The leading-edge slot deviates the streamlines, creates a downwash on the

main element and modifies markedly the leading edge suction peak.

Later on, more elements were added to the main wing. A three-element

configuration (with leading-edge slat and trailing-edge flap) is classic, but

the technology has improved, and 4 or more element are not uncommon,

ex. in Fig. 2.

A system with increasing number of elements provides an increasing

amount of lift. This increase is however associated with an increase in

drag.

the computational tools. There is always the possibility of failing to meet

the design target.

Optimization and design cannot be approached by using the wind tunnel

alone, because extensive parametric testing is time consuming and

economically unaffordable. In fact, only the final design is generally build

and tested in a wind tunnel at the design conditions.

The design is complicated by the mutual interaction (interference) among

the aerodynamic components. Industry is in fact interested in integrating

each component into a more complex aerodynamic system (aircraft

design, turbomachinery, etc.), besides optimizing a single device.

With the improvement of the computational capabilities a more rational

approach to design and optimization has become possible. The use of wind

tunnel techniques is complementary and now in a process of closer

integration.

Examples from the real world include the design multi-stage turbines for

aircraft and power generation, aircraft design, internal flows in pipes and

channels for pumps, compressors and exhaust gas.

Computational Methods

In the past few years the computational methods for high lift have been

converging toward Navier-Skotes solvers (unstructured, and multi-block

structured), although methods including strongly interactive boundary

layers have proven to be almost as successful.

The method of computation depends on the complexity of the problem (2D, 3-D, number of high-lift bodies, precision requirements, turbulence

modeling, etc.).

The figure below shows the pressure field around an inverted 2-element

wing for racing applictions. The flow field was computed with a structured

multi-block Navier-Stokes code.

Related Material

Strakes

Delta Wings

Computational Methods for high lift

On the Web

These sites are not part of the aerodyn.org domain. There is no control over their content

or availability.

Selected References

Clancy JC. Aerodynamics, John Wiley, New York, 1975.

AGARD. High-Lift System Aerodynamics, AGARD CP-515,

Banff, Oct. 1993

McCormick BW. Aerodynamics, Aeronautics and Flight

Mechanics, John Wiley, New York, 1994.

Betz A.Theory of the Slotted Wing, NACA TN-100, 1922.

[Top of Page]

In this Chapter

o Oscillatory Flows

o Non Oscillatory Flows

o Dimensionless Parameters

Dynamic Stall

High Angle of Attack

Unsteady Wakes behind Bluff Bodies

o Flow Past Cylinder

o Flow Past Sphere

o Other Bluff Bodies

Unsteady Boundary Layers

Computed Examples

Selected References

the control of the unsteady

flow field

Although most aerodynamic flows are treated as steady ones, many others

are non stationary. The variety of non stationary flows is large, and

includes transient regimes, impulsive starts, maneuvering, periodic flows,

and flows that are intrinsically unsteady because of the mechanism of

The ability to control general three-dimensional unsteady flows could open

new possibilities in the performance of many aerodynamic systems,

including aircraft, helicopter and wind energy conversion systems.

Other aspects of unsteady flows include: hydrodynamic propulsion

(propeller-hull interaction), flapping wing propulsion, a number of cavity

flows, and many heat transfer problems.

The flows that will be considered are:

Oscillatory Flows

Non Oscillatory Flows

o Vortex dynamics at high angle of attack

o Unsteady wakes behind bluff bodies

Oscillatory Flows

The unsteady problems of oscillatory type have been widely studied for

airfoils and wings since the 1930s, when the first theories have been

formulated (Theodorsen, 1932).

Dynamic stall affects helicopter rotor blades in forward flight,

maneuvering and descent (because of the asymmetric loads created by the

flight dynamics); wind turbine rotors (because of the unsteady nature of

the wind, along with the atmospheric boundary layer, the presence of the

tower, the topography of the terrain, etc.). Dynamic stall on airfoils is a

particular case of the above. At the highest speed of a helicopter rotor

another peculiar aspect appears: the unsteady shock wave on the blade.

Other unsteady flows of practical importance include flows past circular

cylinders (von Karman, 1930s), and past spheres. These phenomena are

oscillatory only at very low Reynolds numbers and become fully turbulent

and aperiodic at higher speeds. The largest Reynolds number at which the

von Karman vortex street is observed is Re=400, that corresponds to a

Strouhal number St=0.21.

Dimensionless Parameters

The non dimensional parameter defining the similitude of periodic flows is

the Strouhal number St=fL/V (f=frequency; L=characteristic length; V =

characteristic speed), or the reduced frequency k=2 St. The two non-

frequency is used more often for dynamic stall problems.

Dynamic Stall

Periodic flows on airfoils and wings (plunging, pitching and a combination

of the two) lead to a peculiar effect called dynamic stall. The main reason

why dynamic stall appears is the finite response time of the flow to an

incoming disturbance (for ex. change in angle of attack, free stream

turbulence effects, etc.).

The response time (sometimes called time-lag) is dependent on the viscous

effects, which ultimately lead to energy dissipation. The latter is

proportional to the integral of the hysteresis loop. The first to provide a

mathematical description of airfoils in flutter was Theodorsen (1932). His

theory was based on linearized small perturbation equations.

Besides the cylinder and the sphere at relatively high Reynolds numbers,

there is a number of flows that are unsteady and aperiodic, although they

can be treated as steady. These include airfoils and wings at high angle of

attack.

Delta wings, pointed cylinders and prolate spheroids are some examples of

technological interest (fighter aircraft, missile aerodynamics, etc.) Their

behavior is related to the dynamics of the vortices released from the body

surface.

Unsteady flows developing in the wakes of bluff bodies, particularly on

road vehicles and aircraft after bodies, are of interest from the point of

view of the base drag that is produced at the rear end. Similar interest in

reported for some cavity flows.

Fundamental studies are available for the flat plate at all speeds (up to

hypersonic) and all angle of attacks (up to 90 degrees). This is by itself a

sign of the importance of this simple device to the understanding of basic

fluid dynamic problems, besides airfoils (Fig. below).

Other systems at angle of attack include blunt and pointed bodies (prolate

spheroids, pointed cylinders), delta wings and low aspect-ratio wings. At

the other end of the technology there is the full aircraft (Lamar, 1992).

Flow separation on these systems is quite complex. On low aspect-ratio

wings and delta wings the flow separation produced a substantial

augmentation of lift (besides drag).

Wakes behind bluff bodies are unsteady (and sometimes periodic) at any

realistic Reynolds number. Simple geometries like the circular cylinder

and the sphere have been investigated for a long time, in order to

understand the physics of flow separation and vortex formation in 3-D.

These bodies also present a technical interest from the point of view of

base drag reduction on cars, trucks, aircraft after bodies and other vehicles.

Flow analysis around bluff bodies such as suspension bridges, tall

buildings, and towers is nowdays an essential element in the engineering

process.

The circular cylinder, along with the flat plate, is the body most widely

studied in fluid dynamics and aerodynamics. Drag data for the cylinder are

known from very low Reynolds numbers all the way to hypersonic speeds.

Vortex Shedding. Systematic vortex shedding analysis was first due to

von Karman, who analyzed the breakdown of the symmetric flow. The von

Karman vortex street has become one of the most well known unsteady

problem. Impulsive start was already known to Prandtl (1904), and the

rotating cylinder was known to Tollmien (1931).

Drag data are tabulated for all Reynolds numbers, flow visualizations are

available up to Mach numbers M=12.1 (to the author's knowledge).

Although the unsteady wake behind the cylinder has been considered for a

long time as purely two dimensional, there are spanwise vortex structures

that appear at some Reynolds numbers. These structures are a function of

the cylinder aspect ratio L/D. References on the circular cylinder can be

found in any text of fluid dynamics.

Related Material

Wakes behind spheres are observed to be steady for Reynolds numbers

below 300-400. Above this limit (which also depends on the surface finish)

vortices break off and are periodically released to form vortex loops that

are connected like in a chain.

At Re above 6000 the vortex shedding is very periodic, with Strouhal

number ranging from 0.125 to 0.20, the largest figure being a limit at high

Reynolds numbers (Achenbach, 1974). Similar wakes can be observed

behind particles falling in water. Effects of the surface geometry have been

studied for the evaluation of the aerodynamic performances of sports balls

(Metha, 1985).

Bluff bodies other than cylinder and sphere include a wide variety of

configurations. Squared cylinders, elliptic cylinders and parallelepipeds of

various aspect-ratios are used to simulate more complex real-life objects.

We will limit this discussion to road vehicles.

Passenger cars, buses and trucks have blunt trailing edges, and various

cavities. Streamlining has been applied (successfully) to both cars and

trucks (on a lesser degree to buses). However, streamlining on fore bodies

has little influence on flow separation and drag. The after body is instead

critical. Among the extensive studies performed by the car industry it is

interesting to report the effect of the slant angle on both lifting and non

The amount of research available for unsteady boundary layer is a tiny

thing compared with the body of work carried out on steady,

incompressible boundary layers. Typical cases available in the literature

include flows past flat plates and circular cylinders, flows started from

rest, colliding shear layers, and periodic oscillations.

Oscillating boundary layers are the basis of dynamic stall behavior, and

therefore are studied from the point of view of unsteady separation.

Boundary layer separation is related to the amplitude of the oscillations.

For a review of recent work see Cousteix, 1986.

Related Material

Computed Examples

Selected References

Mechanism of Flutter, NACA TR 496, 1935.

AGARD. Unsteady Aerodynamics - Fundamentals and

Applications to Aircraft Dynamics, AGARD CPP-386, May 1985.

Smith FT. Steady and Unsteady Boundary Layer Separation, in

Ann. Rev. Fluid Mech, Vol 18, pages 197-220, 1986.

[Top of Page]

In this Chapter

o Laminar Separation Bubble

o Turbulent Transition

o Lift-Drag Characteristics

Aerodynamics of Bluff Bodies

Current Research Topics

Selected References

those occurring at high Reynolds numbers (flow regimes typical of flight),

and to some extent poorly understood. It is particularly interesting to

report that it is not quite clear how a low Reynolds number airfoil section

should look like (Lissaman, 1983).

The aerodynamics of bluff bodies, instead, seems more advanced, and the

technical literature reports cases at Reynolds number as low as a small

fraction of unity. Reynolds numbers for lifting bodies are in the range

50,000 to 500,000. For bluff bodies they are much lower. Both streamlined

and bluff bodies are reported.

The low Reynolds number regime leads to some peculiar features, namely:

gradients;

Appearance of limited areas of flow separation (bubbles)

Turbulence transition triggered by boundary layer instability

Effects of free stream disturbances and surface conditions

3-D effects in otherwise 2-D flows

non linear lift/drag characteristics

lift and drag hysteresis at static conditions

bifurcations of boundary layer states

solutions even for symmetric conditions.

Theories of slender body aerodynamics at low Reynolds number have

been developed by several authors, including Burgers (1938), Taylor

(1969), Lighthill (1975). At very low Reynolds number the inertial forces

are negligible.

Separation Bubble

A separation bubble is a region of locally separated flow on the airfoil.

The extent of this region depends on the operational parameters (Reynolds

number, angle of attack, free stream turbulence), and airfoil geometry

(thickness, camber, surface quality). Depending on a complicated

combination among the above quantities the bubble can be short or long, it

can contract or extend with the increasing angle of attack.

A long separation bubble usually starts far behind the leading edge, causes

a collapse of the leading edge pressure peak and modifies the total

pressure distribution on the upper side of the airfoil. This type of bubble is

associated with a large loss in lift.

A short bubble is just behind the leading edge, does not alter

macroscopically the surface pressure distribution, and changes only

slightly the lift coefficient.

Figure 3: Cp characteristics

Turbulent Transition

Bubble reattachment and airfoil characteristics are strongly dependent on

turbulent transition. A bubble reattaches as turbulent, transition occurring

at some location within the bubble. At very low Reynolds number a

delayed transition may prevent bubble reattachment, and thus cause a

premature stall and a consistent loss of lift. For this reason accurate

knowledge of transition is necessary.

Factors affecting Transition

The most general physical causes that trigger turbulent flow transition on a

solid wall are the following:

Temperature

Surface roughness

External disturbances and acoustic waves

Forced Transition

If transition does not occur by natural means, it can be forced by operating

of the surface roughness or adding transition trips of appropriate size and

shape. One simple criterion sometimes applied to predict bubble

reattachment is the Owen-Klanfer criterion, that consists in evaluating the

Reynolds number based on boundary layer thickness.

Predicting Transition

There are several theoretical methods for predicting turbulent transition.

Some methods commonly used in aerodynamics include the Michel

method, the eN method. The accuracy of these methods (or any other

methods currently known) is not always sufficient for computing airfoil

characteristics as those reported below.

Lift/Drag Characteristics

Lift and drag characteristics are affected by the Reynolds number in a way

that is unknown at the speeds proper of commercial flight. The extent of

the viscous flow and the separated region (e.g. the size and behavior of the

separation bubble).

Fig. 4 and Fig. 5 show two different, albeit typical, lift curves at Reynolds

numbers below 100,000.

In the figure above the lift curve is dominated by the laminar separation

bubble (B). When the bubble contracts with the increasing incidence, the

bubble lift decreases slightly, then increases again and the airfoil finally

stalls with a trailing edge separation.

The case above shows a a hysteresis loop (I), that occurs when the airfoil

flow at increasing angle of attack features different characteristics of those

The bluff bodies considered at low Reynolds number are almost

exclusively of spheric shape, since they include the motion of liquid drops

bubbles and particulate in air, that are of general technical interest (for

example, cavitation problems, combustion, fluidized beds, magnetohydrodynamics; diffusion problems, etc.).

At the limit of zero Reynolds number the Navier-Stokes equations are

reduced to a condition of equilibrium for the pressure, whose fundamental

solution is a point force called stokeslet (Hancock, 1953). In practice the

Reynolds number cannot be zero, so small inertia forces are present.

The drag coefficient of solid particles and bubbles has been widely

investigated, and often some correlations are given: Oseen's equation for

Re < 1; For reference, the drag coefficient of a bubble is CD = 10 at Re =

1; CD = 2.6 at Re = 42. Data are also available for slender cylinders.

For streamlined bodies (airfoils and wings) there is ongoing research in

the fields of wind tunnel testing, airfoil design, turbulent transition studies

for gliding, human-powered flight, solar-powered flight, wind turbine

blades, micro air vehicles.

For bluff bodies the field of research includes a wide array of industrial

(exhaust gases, fluidized beds, combustion problems), or a bubble

(cavitation), dynamics of sprays and jets.

Transition prediction is an interesting topic for the most advanced CFD

methods. The traditional Reynolds averaged Navier-Stokes equations deal

with ensemble averaged equations, and therefore is unable to resolve the

large scale eddies. The large eddy simulation (LES) methods model the

turbulence in the sub-grid scale.

As an alternative, direct Navier-Stokes solution (DNS) may be used. This

approach requires very fine grids and small steps to resolve the

Kolmogoroff scale. Both LES and DNS are still at a development stage to

predict how well they can predict turbulent transition at small Reynolds

numbers.

Related Material

Navier-Stokes Equations

On the Web

These sites are not part of the aerodyn.org domain. There is no control over their content

or availability.

Selected References

Aerodynamics, UNDAS-CP-77B123, Notre Dame, Indiana, June

1985.

Proceedings of the Aerodynamics at Low Reynolds Number 10^4 <

Re <

International Conference, The Royal Aeronautical

Society, London, Oct. 1986.

AGARD, Low Reynolds Number Vehicles , AGARDograph AG288, 1985.

Selig M, Lyon C, Giguere P, Ninham C, and Guglielmo J.,

Summary of Low-Speed Airfoil Data, Vol. 2, SoarTech Publ.,

Virginia Beach, VA, 1996.

[Top of Page]

Grid Generation

Summary

Conceptual Problems

Visualization Problems

o Algebraic Methods

o Elliptic Methods

o Hyperbolic Methods

o Unstructured Methods

o Adaptive Methods

o Other Methods

Surface Control

State-of-the-Art

Examples

Selected References

employ finite differences, finite volumes and finite elements for the

solution of partial differential equations (PDE). Shortly, it consists in

dividing bounded or unbounded flow domains into elements (triangles,

quadrilaterals, polygons in 2-D; tetraedrons, parallelepipeds, n-edrons,

The problem is a non-trivial one, and requires a considerable amount of

time. Development of a grid generation system requires years of work.

The topic of grid generation has become a field on its own in the

increasigly vast field of computational fluid dynamics (CFD). A short

selection of publications for reference is given below. Some general

considerations regarding suitable methods and their role in CFD are the

following:

methods only work on good grids;

If one had enough resolution (e.g. enough points), then the grid

quality would be of minor importance, provided that some basic

requirements are satisfied; if the grid is necessarily coarse, then its

quality becomes essential;

A good grid can accelerate the convergence of the solution, while a

bad grid can even lead to a divergent iteration history.

Conceptual Problems

There are a number of conceptual problems that must be addressed when

choosing a grid generation system for a particular problem:

Single or multiple (single- of multi-block)

o block-interface type for multi-block (continuous ?)

Overlapping (ex. chimera type) or non-overlapping

Algebraic or from differential equations

Structured or unstructured

Fixed or fully-adaptive

Two- or three dimensional

grids). The most common interface is the full matching (top left). The

other systems require interpolation of fluid dynamic quantities at nonmatching points.

Visualization Issues

Once the grid has been generated, it must be visualized to check for errors

(they come in an infinite variety). For 3-D grids this is a particular difficult

stage, where a computer animated image, or a CAD-based system is

absolutely essential, and this is proven by the fact that the most

sophisticated systems currently available come with visualization

facilities. Minor errors can be fixed with ad hoc post- processing, going

under the definition of grid smoothing.

Input Requirements

Given the complexity of the problem just outlined, one can argue also on

the amount of user input required. Some methods excel for the amount of

data that must be set (for example a multi-block structured grid, requiring

Unstructured grids have been sometimes preferred on the structured

counterparts because grids - also in complex domains - can be generated

more automatically.

How about the grid quality then ? - If the code runs, do not fix it,

otherwise repeat the fundamental steps.

Below it is described a set of algebraic and differential methods that

makes up the bulk of the available methods.

Algebraic Methods

Algebraic methods are based on coordinate transformation equations in a

physical domain. In their most simple form they are Lagrange and Hermite

transformations (are called shearing transformations). Some methods are

based on interpolation schemes in multi-dimensions.

Transfinite interpolation (Eriksson, 1982), and multi- surface

transformation (Eiseman, 1985) produce good grids for closed domains.

Integration of the methods with additional control on the boundary values

and elliptic smoothing (see further down) give efficient grid generation

systems (for example ICEM/CFD, GridPro) These methods in their most

developed form allow some control on the values of the derivatives at the

boundary.

Elliptic Methods

Elliptic methods are based on the solution of elliptic partial differential

equations with some conditions (called forcing terms) to force point

bunching. The problem is formulated via a set of Poisson equations

(Thompson, 1977) with forcing terms usually defined by the ThomasMiddlecoff terms (Thomas-Middlecoff, 1982), or by other appropriate

control functions (Sorenson, 1995).

The solution of the system is iterative, for example with a Successive

Over- Relaxation (SOR) method. For large grids the computing time is

considerable.

Elliptic systems produce very smooth grids (sometimes too smooth) and

they can be used to smooth out metric discontinuities in the transfinite

interpolation systems (for this purpose also a Laplace smoother will

suffice).

Hyperbolic Methods

Hyperbolic methods are based on the solution of partial differential

equations of hyperbolic type, that are solved marching outward from the

domain boundaries.

The idea of using hyperbolic PDEs is very effective for external flows

where the wall boundaries (airfoil, wing, wing-body, etc.) are well

defined, whereas the far field boundary is left arbitrary. This situation also

eliminates the need to specify point distribution on some of the edges of

the flow domain, and makes it more handy than for example the transfinite

interpolation methods.

In its basic formulation (Steger- Chaussee, 1980) the hyperbolic grid

generator is based on a condition of orthogonality, and a condition on the

cell area. The method can be integrated with grid line smoothing and

orthogonality checks.

Unstructured Methods

There are several algorithms for generating unstructured grids. The

Delauney triangulation method other Voronoi methods and the advancing

front method are the most popular, also among solution-adaptive systems,

and they are the basis of some commercial fluid dynamic codes (for

example Star-CD, Rampant).

The field is in rapid expansion, and there are schools of thought whether

the unstructured approach is better or worse than the structured approach

to the solution of PDEs in fluid dynamics.

Briefly, unstructured grids can be generated faster on most complex

domains, and exists for all domains. Mesh refinement can be done without

difficulties, also on a local basis and adaptively.

Storage of the grid data is no easy (it requires information on which node

is neighbor to which), it takes far more memory than in a structured sense,

and therefore hinders parallelizarion of computer codes.

Adaptive Grids

All the methods described above make use of some empirical knowledge

about the form of the solution of the PDEs. This knowledge makes us

force many points in regions of large field gradients (for ex. boundary

layers).

Better solutions could be obtained if a first guess grid could be adapted in

a time-marching numerical scheme to follow exactly the evolution of the

field gradients (a particular difficult problem is the position of the shock

wave in a transonic flow.)

Methods that can be used to follow the solution include: weight functions,

Poisson smoothing, electro-dynamic analogy. The major problem of the

adaptivity systems is that they must be built in the solver of the PDEs, and

cannot be left out as in the most popular approach.

Other Methods

For some problems of particular difficult nature scientists have developed

hybrid methods that feature both structured and unstructured zones. These

methods are the chimera technique and the hybrid structured/ unstructured

technique.

The chimera approach consists in building partially overlapping blocks.

Boundary conditions need to be exchanged at the interface between

domains and this is usually done through some form of interpolation.

The hybrid scheme takes advantage of both unstructured and structured

methods by applying structured body fitted coordinates to the body and

unstructured networks in the outer boundaries.

Problems that require such a complex CFD approach include

rotor/fuselage interaction in a full rotorcraft simulation, propeller to fixed

wing analysis, etc.

Surface Control

All grid generation processes (especially 3-D problems) start with a

surface definition. This definition is seldom an easy task. The input may

consist of points, lines, curves, splines, surface patches, etc.

All these items can be defined through a CAD system. Sometimes it is

necessary to spline, smooth and re-patch the input data. Some examples

for 2-D airfoil problems are shown in theexamples. Some grid generation

systems come with their own facilities (for ex. ICEM/Surf, widely used in

automotive industry).

State-of-the-Art

Presently there is no one method that fits all. Most still depends on the

quality of the CFD solution that can be achieved.

The characteristics of the block boundaries depend on the capabilities of

the flow solver. In the structured domain, algebraic methods have been

preferred because faster.

Multi-Disciplinary Strategies

The most up-to-date methods have been embedded in sophisticated multidisciplinary tools that come with CAD/CAE interface, surface treatment

techniques, complex visualization tools, post-processing, etc. These tools

allow multi-block structured.

Problem Size

The number of cells that can are necessary depends on the particular

problem. Usually a minimum number is easy to figure out. Most practical

aerodynamic problems can be solved with several million cells. The 10

million mark is current practical bound.

More on

Examples of calculation

On the Web

These sites are not part of the aerodyn.org domain. There is no

guarantee nor control over their content and availability.

Selected References

Configurations, AGARD CP-464, Aug. 1989.

NASA, Surface Modeling, Grid Generation, and Related Issues in

Computational Fluid Dynamic Solutions, NASA CP-3291, May

1995.

Thompson JF, Warsi ZUA, Mastin CW. Numerical Grid

Generation, North Holland, 1985.

Eiseman P. Grid Generation for Fluid Mechanics, Ann. Rev. Fluid

Mech, Vol 17, pages 487-522, 1985.

AGARD, Three-Dimensional Grid generation for Complex

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