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Analysis of airflow over airfoil shapes.

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Project 1

Part I

Using XFoil CFD software, a NACA 0012 airfoil was analyzed at a mach number of 0 and multiple

Reynold’s numbers ranging from inviscid to 5e6. The software calculated multiple different values such

as coefficients of lift and drag, transition location, etc. Figure 1a above shows the coefficient of lift as a

function of the coefficient of drag as well as the angle of attack, and the transition location (laminar to

turbulent) on the airfoil, respectively from left to right.

From Figure 1a, it is clear that as the Reynold’s number increases, the ratio between the coefficient

of lift and coefficient of drag is convergent and increasing until it diverges at a Reynold’s number of 5e6.

From the second plot, it is clear that between an angle of attack of -2 and 10 degrees, the coefficient of lift

increases at the same rate at all Reynold’s numbers. Past 10 degrees, however, there is a sharp decrease in

the coefficient of lift as the viscid flow’s Reynold’s number decreases. Note how this is only relevant for

the viscid flows, as the inviscid flow does not have this sharp decline as the angle of attack increases. The

third plot shows two separate lines for each Reynold’s number. All of these lines intersect at some value on

the x-axis (transition location along the airfoil). For all Reynold’s number values, this intersection occurs

at a coefficient of lift value of zero, meaning this intersection point occurs at an angle of attack of zero

degrees. The point increases for each Reynold’s number as said Reynold’s number decreases. Assuming a

larger x-value corresponds to a transition location further back on the airfoil, it is clear that flow separates

and becomes turbulent sooner as the Reynold’s number increases. This can be confirmed with simple logic.

From a design perspective, it is clear that a higher Reynold’s number yields better performance and

higher efficiency for the NACA 0012 airfoil up to a limit. Additionally, this conclusion can be generalized

to all airfoils. Therefore, it is vitally important to consider increasing the Reynold’s number when designing

an airfoil. The easiest way to do this is to increase the length of the chord. However, this would add weight

to the aircraft. From a design and engineering perspective, finding this “sweet spot” is important.

Part II

Using XFLR5 CFD software, a simple NACA 0012 airfoil was analyzed at constant velocity and

varying angles of attack after gathering Reynold’s data with XFoil. Since the NACA 0012 airfoil is

symmetric, the graphs in figure 2a also share symmetry. These graphs show the coefficient of lift vs. drag,

the coefficient of lift vs. angle of attack, moment coefficient vs. angle of attack, and ratio of coefficient of

lift and drag vs. angle of attack respectively from left to right and top to bottom at 10, 20, and 50 m/s. An

interesting result of these calculations is the “loop” in the first graph for the 10 m/s scenario. This can be

shown more clearly in the fourth graph as the dips above/below the x-axis for the 10 m/s case. What this is

showing is that the ratio between coefficient of lift and drag is actually positive at an angle of attack between

about 0 and -1.0 degree and negative between about 0 and 1.0 degree. This is a counter-intuitive result and,

therefore, interesting and worth mentioning.

Part III

Brehnden Daly

David Moore

Sean Elia

Figure 3b: Coefficient of Lift vs. Iteration

Figure 3d: Absolute Pressure Contour

Figure 3f: Magnitude of Velocity at Front Boundary

Figure 3g: Magnitude of Velocity at Rear Boundary

Figure 3a depicts the residual value vs. iteration value. The residual value is a result of iteratively

solving the fluid dynamics equations. Since each separate parameter converges to a certain value, we can

confidently say the total CFD analysis converged.

Figure 3b depicts the coefficient of lift vs. iteration value. This converges to a value of around 0.4.

One interesting thing to note is the “jump” at around 500 iterations. The coefficient of lift goes from 0.39

to 0.4. For an angle of attack of zero degrees, XFoil calculated a coefficient of lift of zero. This can be

attributed to the different airfoil shapes. The NACA 0012 airfoil used in XFoil is a symmetric airfoil and,

therefore, provide negligible lift at an angle of attack of zero. The airfoil used in StarCCM is not symmetric

and therefore provides lift even at zero degrees.

Figure 3c depicts coefficient of drag vs. iteration value. This value’s rate of convergence seemed

to be the fastest. Unfortunately the graph could not be exposed lower than 0.4 even though it clearly shows

the value decreasing past 0.4. XFoil’s coefficient of drag varied between about 0.002 and 0.01 for different

Reynold’s numbers.

Figure 3d depicts the contour of the absolute pressure over the airfoil. It is clear from this contour

that the pressure over the top surface is less than the pressure over the bottom surface. There is also a sharp

increase in pressure at the very front tip of the airfoil where it first meets the airflow.

Figure 3e depicts the magnitude of the velocity of the air around the airfoil. It is interesting to see

how the velocity of the airflow increases at the same location where pressure decreases, clearly showing

Bernoulli’s principle. Velocity also decreases sharply at the front and rear of the airfoil where turbulent,

viscous air is dominant.

Figure 3f depicts a closer view of the magnitude of the velocity of the airflow over the airfoil. This

close-up is located toward the front of the airfoil and more clearly shows the boundary layer. As the distance

between the airflow and the airfoil decreases, the velocity clearly approaches zero.

Figure 3g depicts a closer view of the magnitude of the velocity of the airflow over the airfoil. This

close-up is located toward the rear of the airfoil where both the airflow above and below the airfoil meet.

This image also clearly shows how the velocity of the airflow approaches zero as it gets closer to the airfoil.

One could argue that it also shows slight flow separation as the velocity is lower further away from the

airfoil in this rear location than toward the front of the airfoil, for example.

Part IV

In XFoil, the NACA 0012 CFD analysis was quite fast. My desktop PC was able to perform the

analysis in only a few seconds. This was also true for the XFLR5 analysis. The StarCCM analysis,

however, took longer than both XFoil and XFLR5. StarCCM took between 30 seconds and 1 minute to

converge to reliable values.

With that said, the airfoil design in StarCCM was far more complex than the NACA 0012 used in

XFoil and XFLR5. The symmetry of the NACA 0012 clearly simplified the iterative calculations. It is

also worth mentioning that StarCCM provided much more intuitive and detailed visual results than XFoil

and XFLR5.

I believe the StarCCM airfoil would be used in lower-speed applications compared to the NACA

0012 airfoil. Since for a given lift coefficient the NACA 0012’s drag coefficient is much smaller, this

would allow it to go faster.

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