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Symposium of Applied Aerodynamics
Polytech’Orléans, 28-30 March 2011



Ivan Dobrev
, Fawaz Massouh

Arts et Métiers-Paristech, 151, bd L’Hôpital, Paris 75013, France, Email:
Arts et Métiers-Paristech, 151, bd L’Hôpital, Paris 75013, France,

This paper proposes a method to extract the aerodynamic lift coefficients of the rotating wind turbine blade. The
method is based on the analysis of the velocity field around the blade sections. This velocity field, obtained by
means of PIV exploration, is used to calculate the blade section circulation and inflow velocity. Based on Kutta-
Joukowsky theorem, it is possible to calculate the lift coefficient of the blade section. To establish the relationship
between the lift coefficient and the angle of attack, the rotor is tested for different rotational speeds while keeping
the upstream flow velocity constant. Thus, the aerodynamic properties of the blade airfoils are obtained, taking
into account the rotational effects. The results are useful database for numerical simulations and validations.


Several aerodynamic theories for the analysis
of flow through rotors or propellers need the
airfoil aerodynamic characteristics. These
characteristics are used to calculate the forces
applied by the wind on blade sections,
depending of rotor inflow. Usually, the lift and
drag coefficients, as functions of angle of
attack, are obtained by the test of the airfoil in
a wind tunnel. However, it is known that the
blade rotation can have a significant effect on
the blade section aerodynamic coefficients.
Unlike the profile of a fixed wing, in the case of
the rotating blade, the boundary layer is
subjected to centrifugal and Coriolis forces. .
Consequently, flow separation appears for a
greater angle of attack and becomes less
abrupt, especially for the root blade sections,
see [1]. Thus, to improve the accuracy of
calculation, it is essential to use the
aerodynamic characteristics of rotating airfoil,
sometimes called “rotating polar”.

There are different theories to calculate the
rotating polar based on the correction of the 2D
polar of the profile, see [2]. Unfortunately, the
results obtained using these theories are not
always satisfactory and do not achieve the
desired accuracy. Consequently, the
experimental way remains to be exploited to
obtain these characteristics.

Currently, the experimental method is based
on measuring the static pressure on several
sections along the blade and measuring the
dynamic pressure and velocity direction
upstream of each of these sections. This
method can be applied to rotors equipped with
blades, which has sufficient space to carry a
pressure sensor, connecting lines and also
numerous pressure taps. Moreover, the task
becomes even more difficult, since the
reference velocity should be measured
sufficiently upstream of the profile, where the
flow is not perturbed by the blade section.

In view of these difficulties to measure the
pressures on a rotating blade and to obtain the
wind direction upstream of the profile, this
method seems very costly and thus rotating
polar exists only for a few profiles; see [3], [4],
[5] and [6].

The development of non-intrusive techniques,
such as LDA and PIV, enables to measure the
velocity field around a rotating blade.
Meanwhile the review of literature shows that
only few studies took advantage of such
techniques to investigate flow through a wind
turbine rotor. In fact, most researchers work
essentially about the exploration of wind
turbine wake by PIV, for example in [7], [8], [9]
and [10].

Only two researcher teams have worked on
the exploration of flow around the rotating
blade section. In the first study, presented in
[8], the authors studied the vortex wake behind
the rotor and the velocity field around the blade
sections. The blade bound circulation is
presented and angle of attack is also
measured directly from the obtained vector
field. Without carrying out calculation, the

authors suggest using Kutta-Joukowsky
theorem to obtain the airfoil lift coefficients.
The other work devoted to study velocity field
around a wind turbine blade is that of Maeda et
al [4]. In this work the authors present the
distribution of circulation along the blade based
on the velocities obtained by means of LDA.
The pressure distribution is also measured for
5 different sections of the blade. The
aerodynamic characteristics of the airfoils are
determined from pressure measurements.

The study presented here is a continuity of
studies of the wake vortex downstream of wind
turbine rotors [9] and [10]. The objective is to
develop a method for calculating aerodynamic
coefficients of the rotating airfoil. The approach
is based on the analysis of the velocity fields
obtained by PIV measurements around the
blade sections of a rotating blade. Indeed the
aerodynamic force applied to the profile is
obtained on the basis of the Kutta-Joukowsky
theorem and from the circulation around the

Figure 1. Test Bench

In this study, the reference velocity used to
calculate the lift coefficients is determined from
the measured velocity field, upstream of the
blade section, and from the peripheral
component of velocity due to rotation of the
blade. A correction is applied in order to
account for the local disturbance created by
the studied blade section.

The calculation is carried out for different
operating points of the wind turbine which
enables to determine the variation of lift
coefficient as a function of the angle of attack.

Finally to validate the method, the power
obtained by means of measured circulation
and inflow velocity along the blade is
compared with the mechanical power
measured directly on the shaft of the turbine.

1.1. Test bench
The experimental study is carried out on a
wind turbine installed in the wind tunnel of Arts
et Métiers - ParisTech, Fig.1. The tunnel
nozzle accelerates the wind from settling
chamber to test section up to 40 m/s. The
nozzle has contraction ratio of 12.5, which
ensure a uniform velocity profile and
turbulence less than 0.25%. The tested wind
turbine has a three-blade rotor with a diameter
of 500 mm. The chord is 68 mm at the blade
root and 48 mm at the tip. The blades are not
twisted and the pitch angle is 10°.

Figure 2. Plane of exploration

During the tests, the wind turbine rotational
speed varies from 1200 rpm to 1800 rpm and
the upstream flow velocity is constant: 9.3 m/s.
The Reynolds number calculated for the blade
chord located at 0.7R by means of relative
velocities obtained during the tests varies
between 90,000 and 130,000.

The rotor is mounted on a 600mm long shaft
which is coupled with a DC generator. The
rotor load is controlled with a rheostat
connected to the generator. The coupling
between the rotor shaft and the generator is
made via a contactless torque transducer
(HBM T20WN), which enables to measure the
torque and delivers 360 pulses per revolution.

A fiber optic sensor (Keyence FS20V), that
detects a rotating target on the shaft, is used to
locate the passage of the blade considered to
be the reference. Thus, the counting the
number of square signals delivered by the
torque meter after the passage of the
reference signal, permits to obtain the rotor's

angular position with an accuracy of 1°. The
acquisition of data from the sensors is carried
out by data acquisition card, which emits a TTL
signal for triggering the PIV measurements at a
desired rotor angular position.

Figure 3. Raw image superposed with the field of
relative velocity around the airfoil

The PIV system is managed by the Dantec
software DynamicsStudio 2.30. Taking images
is done by implementing a laser (Litron Nano-L
200-15), with an impulse power of 2x200 mJ, a
camera of 2048x2048px (Dantec FlowSense
4M), equipped with the lens (Nikkor AF-S 105
mm f/2.8 G ED IF), a frame grabber card and a
synchronization system. The last synchronizes
images and laser flashes with the blade
angular position. The seeding of flow is made
with micro droplets of olive oil created by a
mist generator (10F03 Dantec). The droplets
diameter is supposed upto 2-5µm.

1.2. Capturing and image processing
To determine the curve "lift coefficient-angle of
attack", the speed of rotor rotation is varied
between 1200 rpm and 1800 rpm, while
keeping the upstream flow velocity equal to 9.3
m/s. The study is carried out in 9 operating
points of the rotor and for each point a series
of 200 double images is taken. This image
capture is synchronized with the rotation of the
rotor and the PIV system is triggered just when
the axis of the blade becomes perpendicular to
the laser plane. As the laser sheet is normal to
the axis of the blade, a mirror is used, to
resolve the problem of shadow, created by the
upside blade surface, and to illuminate the
back side. To reduce reflections of laser
radiation, the entire surface of the rotor is
painted with a black matt paint.

Taking into account that the frequency of the
camera is 7 Hz, the image is taken once every
four revolutions. The time between the first and
second image of each pair of images is set to
20µs. This value was experimentally
established to ensure the best cross-
correlation. The cross-correlation with
adaptation is applied to interrogation windows
of 32x32 pixels and a 50% overlap, which
provides a spatial resolution of 1.23 mm.

The results are presented in Fig. 3. Here, on
the raw image, the relative velocity field around
the blade is superposed. The results show a
good cross-correlation, except in the region
near the blade surface. Despite the saturation
of the image near the airfoil, the velocity field is
usable, as the contour of integral to calculate
the circulation is taken sufficiently away from
the airfoil. Finally, the treatment of all PIV
images has permitted to establish a database
containing the instantaneous velocity fields and
the average velocity field for each of the 9
operating points of the rotor.


2.1. Flow around the airfoil
The purpose of these tests is to obtain
sufficient information about the velocity field
around the profile in order to calculate its
aerodynamic properties. Indeed, it is possible
to extract the aerodynamic characteristics
directly from the absolute velocity field, Fig. 4.

Figure 4 Absolute velocity, r/R=0.7, n=1200 rpm

Figure 5 Relative velocity, r/R=0.7, n=1200 rpm

Here, the streamlines show well that the flow is
slowed and deviated by the profile in the
opposite direction to rotation. We also note the
existence of a stall zone at the trailing edge of
the profile. This stall is a consequence of the
thickness of profile at the trailing edge. The
presence of the viscous wake is also visible in
Fig. 5, which represents the relative velocity
around the profile. Figure 6, represents the
field of dimensionless unsteady relative
velocity in vicinity of the trailing edge, and Fig.
7 represents the vorticity. Finally, the average
relative velocity fields for different speeds of
rotation are represented on Fig. 8-15.

Figure 6 Trailing edge wake, r/R=0.5, n=1200 tr/min

2.2. Calculation of airfoil lift
There is a very important difference between
flow around an isolated profile and flow around
the blade sections of a rotor blade. This
difference is based the reference velocity. The
actuator disk theory shows; that in the case of
wind turbine, the fluid passing through the rotor
is slowed, because the rotor converts kinetic
energy of the wind into mechanical energy.
Betz’s Law announced that the maximum
power of the rotor is reached when flow axial
velocity at the rotor plane is 2/3 of the
upstream velocity. Thus velocity depends on
the rotor loads; and the reference speed
cannot be the same as that of upstream
velocity, but another, near the rotor plane and
which takes into account the slowdown in the
fluid flow deceleration.

Indeed, the problem of the reference velocity is
not easy to solve. If the studied flow field is
limited too closely to the airfoil to have a good
spatial resolution, then the measured field will
be perturbed by the airfoil. Contrarily, if the
boundary of the flow field is too far away from
the airfoil, it is possible to lose accuracy. Also,
with the enlargement of the measured window,
the distance between the top or the bottom of
the image and the rotor axis becomes rather
different from the distance between the image
centre and the rotor axis, Fig.2. Here, the flow
deviates too far from the studied blade section.
So these parts of the images are not useful for
the study of flow.

Figure 7 Trailing edge vorticity, r/R=0.7, n=1200 rpm

To obtain the reference velocity, it is possible
to use the approach of [11], [12]. In these
works; the method of free wake is applied to
estimate the angles of attack along the blade.
However, in the case of studied wind turbine,
the rate of dissipation of tip vortex intensity is
very important [10] and it is difficult to calculate
the velocity induced by the shed vorticity.

An early study [9], carried out by means of hot-
wire anemometry, showed that the flow in
circumferential direction, immediately behind
the rotor is perturbed mostly by the airfoil
presence. The axial and tangential velocities,
induced by the tip and root vortices are quiet
uniform in circumferential direction. Also, the
free vorticity sledded from the blade is enrolled
rapidly into one tip vortex with low pitch. As a
result, the flow through the rotor is similar to
quasi three-dimensional flow, bounded
between the vortex surfaces created by tip and
root vortices.

Figure 8 Average velocity, 0.7 r/R, n=1200 tr/min

Figure 9 Average velocity, 0.7 r/R, n=1314 tr/min

Figure 10 Average velocity, 0.7 r/R, n=1360 tr/min

Figure 11 Average velocity, 0.7 r/R n=1435 tr/min

Figure 12 Average velocity, 0.7 r/R, n=1480 tr/min

Figure 13 Average velocity, 0.7 r/R, n=1580 tr/min

Figure 14 Average velocity, 0.7 r/R, n=1630 tr/min

Figure 15 Average velocity, 0.7 r/R, n=1800 tr/min

Figure 16 Calculation of velocity induced by the

As a result, we can represent the flow through
the blade segment, like the flow through a
blade cascade. In this case; the velocity
obtained by means of PIV corresponds to
velocity of resultant flow. Hence, to extract the
reference velocity, it is needed to subtract the
velocity induced by the blade cascade from
resultant flow.

In this work, the used approach is similar to
that proposed by Shen [11] to study the flow
through a bidimensional vertical axis turbine,
where, the upstream velocity of an airfoil is
obtained by subtracting the velocity induced by
the airfoil from global velocity field. In fact, this
approach is correct only for low or moderate
angles of attack; where viscosity effects are

In studied case, it is supposed that the
resultant velocity

is decomposed into three
i ad R
   
+ + =

In Eq. (1)

is upstream velocity,

is the
velocity induced by the rotor, which operates
like an actuator disk and

is the velocity
induced by the blade cascade.

In Eq. (1), the velocity induced by the blade
cascade, because high blade pitch, is very
close to that of induced by an isolated airfoil. In
addition, to simplify the calculation, the airfoil is
supposed to be thin with zero camber. This
thin airfoil is modeled by a vortex line of length
c with vortex distribution ¸(s). This airfoil has
the same circulation as the studied airfoil:
= I
ds s
) ( ¸

Then, the Biot-Savart law is applied to
calculate the induced velocity at a point
( ) ( )
ds s
s y y s x x
s y y
c c
) (
) ( ) (
) (
2 2
÷ ÷ ÷
÷ I

( ) ( )
ds s
s y y s x x
s x x
c c
) (
) ( ) (
) (
2 2
÷ ÷ ÷
÷ I
= ,
Here s is the distance measured from the
trailing edge, Fig. 16.

In Eq.3 the dimensionless intensity of the
vortex distribution ) (s ¸ is supposed to be
equivalent to that of a flat plate, hence:
s c
2 ) (
) ( . (4)
In eq. (3), I is the circulation of the profile,
which can be calculated from the velocity field
obtained experimentally by PIV, see Fig. 17:
} } } } }
÷ ÷ + = = I
udx udx vdx udx s d v
 


The subtraction of velocities calculated by Eq.
(3) from the PIV velocity field, permits to obtain
the velocity field, which is not perturbed by the
presence of the airfoil, Fig. 18.

Figure 17 Calculation of circulation

The velocity vectors, downstream of the rotor,
show that the flow diverges because the rotor
operates like an actuator disk and decelerates
the flow. Also it turns the fluid in the opposite
direction of the rotor. It should be noted that
the disturbance introduced by the profile, which
is due to viscosity, cannot be eliminated

particularly the viscous wake of airfoil trailing

By averaging the axial velocity field upstream
of the profile, we obtain the averaged axial
velocity U
which is not disturbed by the airfoil.
Subsequently, one can calculate the relative
velocity of reference W
at profile upstream:
2 2
) ( r U W
e + = (6)
Here er is the peripheral velocity.

Figure 18. Corrected velocity field

The lift force L can be obtained from Kutta-
Joukowsky theorem:
I =
W L µ
On the other hand, L can be expressed in
terms of lift coefficient, dynamic pressure and
the airfoil chord as reference.
µ = (8)
By combining Eqs. (7)-(8) the lift coefficient of
the profile can be obtained as:

The corresponding flow angle |, see Fig. 19,
can be calculated from averaged velocity
upstream of the airfoil:
| arctan =
Subsequently, taking into account the pitch
blade angle u, the angle of attack is:
u | o ÷ = (11)
To obtain the aerodynamic characteristics of
the profile, we calculate the coefficients of lift
and the angles of incidence for different
rotational speeds. The results, presented in
Fig. 20, show moderate lift coefficients which is
lower than the expected values. Most probably
this is a consequence of thick and rounded
trailing edge which cannot fix the trailing
stagnation point. However, as the airfoil has
some camber so the lift at o = 0° incidence is
not zero, and it must also be noted, that the
Reynolds number during the tests is low i.e. Re
< 130 000. The lift curves for r/R=0.7 and
r/R=0.9 are nearly the same, but slope
coefficient C
, for r/R=0.5 is greater, due to
three dimensional effects.

Figure 19 Velocity triangle and aerodynamic forces

Figure 20 Lift of blade section at 0.5 r/R, 0.7 r/R and
0.9 r/R.

In this work, we propose a non-intrusive
method to extract the lift coefficient of a
rotating airfoil and to establish what is called
the “rotating polar”. This method is based on
the analysis of the velocity field obtained by the
PIV. The study is conducted in wind tunnel on
a wind turbine rotor and for the blade profile at
0.5r/R, 0.7r/R and 0.9r/R. for the various
angles of incidence, different speeds of
rotation of the turbine are tested.

For each operating point, a series of PIV
images is taken. Processing and image
analysis enable to obtain the velocity fields and

to calculate the circulation around the profile.
To obtain the inflow reference velocity,
necessary for calculating the aerodynamic
coefficients, the velocity perturbation due to the
airfoil is also taken into account. For this, the
influence of the airfoil is modelled by a thin
profile, which has the same circulation as the
measured one. Then the velocity induced by
airfoil is subtracted from the velocity field
obtained by PIV. Subsequently, the resultant
axial velocities upstream the airfoil is
averaged. The vector of relative velocity to the
profile, which serves as a reference, is
obtained by composition of the averaged
velocities and peripheral speed.

Finally, the lift coefficient is calculated by
means of Kutta-Joukowsky theorem, using the
circulation created by the profile and the
reference inflow velocity. The calculation is
performed for all speeds of rotation of the
turbine, thereby establishing the relationship
between lift coefficient and angle of incidence.
The obtained results are useful database for
numerical simulation.

It is envisaged to study a new wind turbine
model equipped with airfoils which have well
known aerodynamic properties in the case of
low Reynolds number. Also it is previewed to
explore of the airfoil characteristics in vicinity of
blade root. As the flow in this region is highly
three-dimensional, it is envisaged to use stereo


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