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Reading:

http://www.av8n.com/how/htm/

Flow curvature and pressure gradients

The pressures acting on an airfoil are determined by the airfoils overall shape and the angle

of attack. However, its useful to examine how local pressures are approximately aected by

local geometry, and the surface curvature in particular.

Consider a location near the airfoil surface, ignoring the thin boundary layer. The local

ow speed is V , the local streamline radius of curvature is R. Another equivalent way to

dene the curvature is = 1/R = d/ds, where is the inclination angle of the surface or

streamline, and s is the arc length. Positive is dened to be concave up as shown.

R = 1

6p

6n

To determine how the pressure varies normal to the surface, we align local xy axes tangent

and normal to the surface, and employ the y-momentum equation, with the viscous forces

neglected.

p

v

v

= u

v

y

x

y

The Cartesian velocity components are related to the speed and the surface angle as follows.

u = V cos

v = V sin

v=0

u=V

v

V

=

sin + V cos

= V

x

x

x

p

= V 2

n

This is the normal-momentum equation, sometimes also called the centrifugal formula. It

describes the physical requirement that there must be a transverse pressure gradient to force

uid to ow along a curved streamline. It is valid for inviscid ows, at any Mach number.

1

Because of the inuence on normal pressure gradients, changes in surface curvature are

expected to cause changes in surface pressure. If a common reference pressure exists away

from the wall, a concave corvature will produce a higher pressure towards the wall, while a

convex curvature will produce a lower pressure towards the wall. The gure below illustrates

the situation for a simple bump. The + and - symbols indicate expected changes in

pressure.

6p >0

6n

6p < 0

6n

6p < 0

6n

p

The curvature/pressure-gradient relation also indicates the pressures which can be expected

on the surface of a body such as an airfoil. Examination of the streamline curvatures indicates

that for a symmetric airfoil at zero angle of attack, higher pressure is expected at the leading

and trailing edges, while lower pressure is expected along the sides.

For the same symmetrical airfoil at an angle of attack, the streamline pattern and the

pressures near the leading edge are now considerably dierent. The stagnation point moves

under the leading edge, and a strongly reduced pressure, called a leading edge spike, forms

at the leading edge point itself.

+ +

are shown for the NACA 0015 airfoil, at

= 0 (c = 0), and = 10 (c = 1.23). The Cp (x) distributions are also shown plotted.

These results were computed using a panel method, and therefore correspond to inviscid

irrotational incompressible ow. The drag is predicted to be zero (dAlemberts Paradox),

and the possibility of boundary layer separation is ignored. Despite these limitations, the

calculations are useful in that they simply reveal the intense pressure spike, which is known

to promote separation of the upper surface boundary layer, and thus degrades the airfoils

stall resistance. A corrective redesign of the airfoil would normally be undertaken if the

leading edge spike is deemed to be too strong.

Use of camber

An eective way to reduce the intensity of the leading edge spike is to add camber to the

airfoil. The NACA 4415 airfoil has the same 15% maximum thickness (relative to chord) as

the 0015, but it has a nonzero 4% maximum camber. The gures below show the cambered

NACA 4415 airfoil at the same same c = 0 and c = 1.23 as in the NACA 0015 case

(comparing at the same lift or c is more meaningful than comparing at the same ).

The leading edge spike at the high angle of attack is indeed reduced considerably. The low

angle of attack case now has a negative spike on the bottom surface, but this is much

weaker and appears tolerable.

Although camber is seen to be attractive in the case above, too much camber is usually

detrimental. The gure below shows the NACA 8415 at the same c = 0 and c = 1.23 conditions. The intense spike on the bottom surface shows the drawback of using the excessive

8% camber the low c (high speed) condition is likely to have excessive drag. Selection of

the ideal amount of camber is a major design choice for the airplane designer.

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