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Airfoil Lift Lab Procedures

A local airplane manufacturer has proposed a modification of the classical Clark Y airfoil. You
are to prepare a report that provides the lift force for various angles of attack and air speeds
and then determine the critical angle of attack at which stall occurs at each speed.

CAUTION: Do not exceed 1150 rpms on the wind tunnel! Doing so may over pressurize the
manometers and damage them.

Pre-lab: Come prepared to explain trapezoidal rule for integration, dimensionless pressure
coefficient, stall, manometers, and Bernoulli equation.

How to Use Wind Tunnel

1. Open the Carbon software on the desktop.
2. Click the green start button next to Tunnel.
3. Input temperature, pressure, and humidity to the software. Note that 1 inHg = 3386.39 Pa.
4. Zero the water manometers, if necessary. The bottom of the green water meniscuses
should read zero for ports 1-24. If they do not, raise the black water reservoir on the back of
the manometer to raise the water meniscuses or lower the water reservoir to lower the
meniscuses. You will need to tighten/loosen the nuts holding the water reservoir in position
to adjust its height.
5. If the meniscus heights on one side the manometer mount are at a different height than the
meniscus heights on the other side, the manometer mount is not level. Level it by loosening
the black screw at the bottom of the manometer mount. Adjust the manometer holder tilt
until all of the manometers read the same pressure. Then, tighten the black screw.
6. Set the airfoils angle of attack by adjusting the knob below the test section. Turn
counterclockwise to increase angle of attack.
7. In the Carbon software, click Tare underneath Speed and Static Ring. This zeroes the
pressure transducer. You should see the Speed and Static Ring readings slightly bounce
around zero.
8. Click VFD ON/OFF to turn on the variable frequency drive. You should hear it turn on. The
VFD controls the rotational speed of the fan inside the wind tunnel.
9. Set the rpm to 700 in the rpm box and press enter. The fan will turn on. This should roughly
correspond to 15-20 m/s. Now gradually adjust to desired speed.
10. Water manometer provides pressure readings for channels 1-19 in inH20.
11. After changing angle of attack, re-adjust the wind tunnel speed, temperature, pressure, and
humidity, if necessary.
12. Turn off the wind tunnel by gradually reducing the rpm to zero, and then pressing the VFD
ON/OFF button. Click the red Stop button next to Tunnel. Close out of the software
and turn of the computer. Tuck the chairs neatly under the table.

Report requirements:
Document the results of your experiment in the form of a full lab report.

1. Get data for at least 3 different speeds (up to a max of 30 m/s) and vary the angle of attack
from 0 degrees to 16 degrees.
2. Nondimensionalize your pressure data in terms of the pressure coefficient:

pi p
U 2

Here, pi is the pressure on the airfoil at the i=1-19 location, p is that static pressure in the wind
tunnel, is the air density, and U is the mainstream velocity in the wind tunnel. For each
speed, plot Cp versus x/C for all of the angles of attack on one plot. Reverse the y axis order so
that negative values are plotted above the axis, and positive values are plotted below the axis.
a. Describe the relationships you see. Which data correspond to the suction side of the
airfoil and which data to the pressure side?
b. Explain how your data show that the airfoil produces lift.
c. What happens when the angle of attack is increased?
d. How does changing the speed change the pressure distribution on the airfoil?
3. For each speed, plot the lift force on the airfoil at each angle of attack by using the
trapezoidal rule to integrate the pressure distribution. Since there is no pressure
measurement at the trailing edge, it is okay to superimpose points at x/C=0 and x/C=1.0
with pi-p=0.
a. Comment on the trends you see.
b. At what angle of attack does the airfoil start to stall? How do you know? How
does it vary with speed?
c. Explain fluid dynamics of a stalled airfoil and how this relates to your data.
d. Comment on the effect of wall shear stress on your lift calculation.
4. Comment on the sources of error in your measurements.
5. Suggestions for future experiments.

Sample Data Sheet for Airfoil Lift Experiment
Here, patm is the atmospheric pressure in the room and p is the static pressure in the wind
tunnel. The software provides the static ring measurement ( patm p ), as well as U and the
motor rpm. The Fisher Scientific device provides patm, and the room temperature T. The water
manometer pressure readings are patm pi , where pi is the static pressure from i=1 to 19 static
pressure taps.

0 2 4 6 8 10 12 14 16
patm p
patm pi readings

Theory Behind Airfoil Lift

A fluid flowing over an object imparts a force on the object. The force has two sources: a
varying pressure distribution around the object and shear stress acting along the objects
surface. The component of the force due to pressure is a result of the objects geometry while
the component due to shear stress is a result of the friction between the fluid and the object.
Pressure acts normal to the objects surface and shear stress acts parallel to the objects
surface, as shown in Fig. 1.

Fig. 1 Diagram of stresses applied to an object immersed in a moving fluid [1].

The net force on the object is broken up directionally: the force in the x direction is called the
drag force and the force in the y direction is called the lift force. The x direction is usually defined
to be parallel to the approaching mainstream fluid and the y direction is perpendicular to x. If the
pressure and shear stress distributions around an object are known, the drag and lift forces can
be calculated using Eq. 1-2.



In the equations above, there is a pressure contribution and a shear stress contribution to both
drag and lift forces, the only difference is the vector components in the x direction are used for
drag and the components in the y direction are used for lift. The negative sign in front of the
pressure lift term is due to a sign convention. When a pressure is positive, it acts opposite the
normal surface direction (it is a compressive stress). For example, the pressure distribution on
an airfoil is shown in Fig. 2 a). On the top (suction side) of the airfoil, the gauge pressure is
negative, meaning the pressure points away from the surface. This contributes to the lift force
in the positive direction, so the sign of the lift force due to pressure must be changed, hence
the (-) in front of the pressure lift term. On the bottom (pressure side) of the airfoil, the gauge
pressure is positive, pointing towards the surface. Using the same angle convention for shown
in Fig. 1, would be over 180, producing a negative sin term. The negative in the pressure lift

term and the negative produced by sin cancel, so the lift force on the bottom of the airfoil is

Fig. 2 Stresses acting on an airfoil a) pressure b) wall shear c) drag and lift forces [1]

Figure 2 b) shows the shear stress along an airfoil. Since the shear stress acts parallel to the
surface, and the airfoil is relatively flat, its contribution to the lift force is negligible. The
magnitude of the shear stress in comparison to the pressure distribution is quite small. This is
true for most objects and the lift force is usually dominated by the pressure distribution. Drag
force, on the other hand, can be heavily influenced by shear stress.

Airfoil Geometry
Figure 3 is a diagram of an airfoil with its geometrical components labeled. The chord
length, C, is the length of the airfoil from the leading edge to the trailing edge. The angle of
attack, , is the angle between the airfoil chord and the mainstream.

Fig. 3 Diagram of an airfoil geometry [2].

How an Airfoil Generates Lift

The fluid dynamics that cause lift on an airfoil are not as intuitive as one would think. An
airfoil generates lift because of circulation around the airfoil. The circulation is induced by

either asymmetry (like the airfoil shown in Fig. 2) and/or due to angle of attack. Figure 4 a)
shows a symmetrical foil at zero angle of attack. Due to symmetry, the airfoil would produce
zero lift. However, if the angle of attack is increased, the symmetry with respect to the
oncoming flow is lost, and the airfoil will produce lift, as shown in Fig. 4 c). Another important
requirement is that the airfoil must have a sharp trailing edge. Without the sharp trailing edge,
there would be no circulation. Figure 4 b) shows an inviscid solution (neglects shear stress and
viscosity effects) of flow around an airfoil. The fluid on the bottom of the airfoil curls up to the
top of the airfoil, producing angular momentum, or circulation, in the counterclockwise
direction. Even though this is a diagram of an inviscid solution, experiments have shown a
starting vortex at the trailing edge of an airfoil as the fluid velocity increases from rest on an
airfoil. Angular momentum must be conserved, so a bound vortex circulates in the clockwise
direction around the airfoil to balance the starting vortex. Figure 4 c) shows that when the both
types of circulation are added with the oncoming mainstream, the fluid on the top and bottom
leave the airfoil at the trailing edge.

Fig. 4 Circulation on an airfoil [1].

Figure 5 is a diagram that shows how the starting vortex (or shed vortex in the figure) balances
the bound vortex.

Fig. 5 Diagram of vortices on an airfoil [3].

When the bound vortex interacts with the approaching mainstream fluid, it causes the velocity
on the top of the airfoil to increase because the circulation is in the same direction as the
mainstream. On the bottom of the airfoil, the circulation is in the opposite direction of the
mainstream, so the fluid velocity is decreased. In Eq. 3, the Bernoulli equation, the left hand
side is the static pressure and dynamic pressure of the mainstream and the right hand side is
the static pressure and dynamic pressure over the airfoil. The Bernoulli equation shows that
when velocity over the airfoil increases, the static pressure decreases and when the velocity
underneath the airfoil decreases, the static pressure increases.

U2 U2
p C p (3)
2 2

On top of the airfoil, the static pressure decreases and is negative relative to the approaching
mainstream static pressure. On the bottom of the airfoil, the velocity is decreased and there is a
positive static pressure relative to the oncoming mainstream static pressure. The pressure
difference between the top and bottom of the airfoil is what produces the lift force. Figure 6
shows a diagram of this.

Fig. 6 Diagram of pressure and velocity distributions around an airfoil [2].

Lift Versus Angle of Attack
The lift force will increase with increasing angle of attack up to a certain point, where
the airfoil stalls. Stall occurs when the boundary layer on the upper surface of the airfoil
separates from the surface. The suction side of the airfoil experiences a positive pressure
gradient since the velocity is increasing. The positive pressure gradient opposes the flow, and
once large enough, causes the boundary layer to separate from the surface. This is shown in Fig.
7 below.

Fig. 7 A stalled airfoil [1].

When an airfoil stalls, the lift is decreased because the lift force where the separation occurs is
lost. Stall will gradually get worse as the angle of attack is increased until the upward lift force is
lost completely.

Details of Equipment and Airfoil

Pressure Measurement in the Experiment

This lab uses three main pressures: the total pressure in the room, patm, the static
pressure of the mainstream in the wind tunnel, p, and the static pressure along the surface of
the model, pi, where the subscript i refers to the pressure tap number (there are 19 along the
airfoil). These pressures are shown in Fig. 8.

patm static pressure in room

p static pressure in wind tunnel

pi static pressure measured on airfoil at i=1-19


Fig. 8 Diagram of wind tunnel labeled with pressures used for this experiment. Modified from [5].

The static atmospheric pressure in the room is equal to the total pressure since the velocity in
the room is roughly zero. This is shown in Eq. 4.

U2 Ui2
patm p pi (4)
2 2

The wind tunnel uses this equation to calculate the velocity in the tunnel. patm is entered into
the software by the user. A pressure transducer measures (patm -- p) so that the dynamic
pressure and mainstream velocity U can be solved for. Notice that since patm is the total
pressure, the static pressures inside the tunnel will be less than patm. This is not the most
accurate way to measure the velocity in the wind tunnel since it does not account for any
pressure losses from the fluid flowing through the wind tunnel nozzles and screens leading up
to the test section. Its acceptable for this lab, but would not be sufficient for acquiring
research-grade data.

To measure the static pressure along the airfoil, pressure taps are installed along the
airfoil in the locations shown in Fig. 9. Dimensions are in inches.

Fig. 9 Airfoil pressure tap locations [5].

Each pressure tap is hooked up to a water manometer with a reservoir at the other end. Even
though the water manometer is read in positive inH20, the pressure on the airfoil is less than
the atmospheric pressure in the room, so you are actually measuring a suction (negative)
pressure relative to the room atmospheric pressure (Fig.10).

Fig. 10 Diagram of a water manometer with a reservoir. Modified from [6]. Height scale Is modified to account
for small change in reservoir height.

Geometric Details of Airfoil

- angle between mainstream and normal surface vector

angle between chord and normal surface vector
Angle of attack

The angle is related to the angle of attack and (given in data chart on page 12 for each point) by:
= .

Pressure Tap x/C S [m] [deg]
Suction Side 1 0.0 0.0000 0
2 0.05 0.0044 115.7
3 0.1 0.0089 106.9
4 0.2 0.0178 97.2
5 0.3 0.0267 91.7
6 0.4 0.0356 88.6
7 0.5 0.0445 85.5
8 0.6 0.0533 83.0
9 0.7 0.0622 80.9
10 0.8 0.0711 79.2
Trailing Edge, 10 1.0 0.0889
Leading Edge, 11 0.0 0.0000 0
Pressure Side 11 0.05 0.0044 262.6
12 0.1 0.0089 267.8
13 0.2 0.0178 268.7
14 0.3 0.0267 267.8
15 0.4 0.0356 267.9
16 0.5 0.0445 267.9
17 0.6 0.0533 267.9
18 0.7 0.0622 267.9
19 0.8 0.0711 267.9
Trailing Edge, 19 1.0 0.0889

In the table, x is parallel to the chord length, where the leading edge is at x/C=0 and the trailing
edge is at x/C=1.0, despite the angle of attack. S is the distance along the surface of the airfoil.
The locations with , are points that have been artificially imposed so that you can integrate the
area at the trailing edge where there are no static pressure measurements.

Calculation of Lift

To calculate the lift force per unit distance, integrate the pressure force on the airfoil that acts
perpendicular to the mainstream velocity.

L (p p ) sinds

The lift force is equal to the area between the suction side and pressure side data as shown in the figure


The easiest way to integrate the pressure distribution to find the lift force is to use the trapezoidal rule:

10' 19
L (pi1 p ) sini1 (pi p ) sini si1 si 1 (pi1 p ) sini1 (pi p ) sini si1 si
i 0 2 11' 2

Works Cited
[1] Munson, Rothmayer, Okiishi and Huebsch, Fundamentals of Fluid Mechanics, 7th ed., Wiley, 2013.
[2] "File:Airfoil.svg," Wikimedia Commons, 23 February 2014. [Online]. Available:
https://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:Airfoil.svg. [Accessed 21 February 2016].
[3] NASA, "Shed Vortex," 5 May 2015. [Online]. Available: https://www.grc.nasa.gov/www/k-
12/airplane/shed.html. [Accessed 20 February 2016].
[4] "Airfoil Lift Background Theory," The University of Texas at Austin, [Online]. Available:
s%20Website/Final%20Report/Web%20Theory.htm. [Accessed 21 February 2016].
[5] Aerolab, "Educational Wind Tunnel (EWT) System," Aerolab, 2015.
[6] "Measurement of Pressure with the Manometer," Dwyer, [Online]. Available:
https://www.dwyer-inst.com/Products/ManometerIntroduction.cfm. [Accessed 20 February