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to Airfoils

AE 1350

They’re Everywhere!

• Wings

• Tail Surfaces (Vertical Fin & Horizontal Stabilizer)

• Propellers and Turbofans

• Helicopter Rotors

• Compressors and Turbines

• Wind Turbines

• Hydrofoils

(wing-like devices which can

lift a boat above waterline)

Anatomy of an Airfoil

Chord Line

(straight from leading edge

to trailing edge)

Camber Line

(line of mid points)

Equal amounts of thickness

above/below camber line

(normal to Camber Line)

Leading Edge

Trailing Edge

Anatomy of an Airfoil

Thickness (t)

Chord (c)

Specifying an Airfoil

• First: Camber line is drawn from the chord line

– Note: Symmetric airfoils have no camber

• Second: Thickness Distribution which is added to the

camber line, normal to the camber line

Symmetric Cambered

Example Airfoil: NACA 0012

• From the NACA 4-digit series of airfoils

– 1

st

digit is camber as percent of chord, 2

nd

digit is distance of max

camber from leading edge in tenths of chord, 3

rd

and 4

th

digits are

maximum thickness as percent of chord

– So, this is an airfoil with no camber, and 12% thickness

– This series uses the following equation to specify the shape:

⎥

⎥

⎦

⎤

⎢

⎢

⎣

⎡

⎟

⎠

⎞

⎜

⎝

⎛

−

⎟

⎠

⎞

⎜

⎝

⎛

+

⎟

⎠

⎞

⎜

⎝

⎛

− − =

4 3 2

1015 . 0 2843 . 0 3537 . 0 126 . 0 2969 . 0

2 . 0 c

x

c

x

c

x

c

x

c

x t

c

y

t = 0.12

y/c

x/c

∞

V

α

Airfoil at Angle of Attack (α)

• Angle of attack is defined as the angle between the freestream and the

chord line, given the symbol α

• The component of aerodynamic forces per unit of span (e.g. per foot of wing

span) normal to the freestream, is called the sectional lift force, and is given

the symbol L'

• The component along the freestream (per unit of span) is called the

sectional drag force, and is given the symbol D'

Lift per unit span (L’)

Drag per unit span (D’)

∞

V

Airfoil at Angle of Attack (α)

• The sectional lift and drag coefficients are defined by:

• Where c is the airfoil chord

Lift per unit span (L’)

Drag per unit span (D’)

c V

L

C

l

2

2

1

∞

′

=

ρ c V

D

C

d

2

2

1

∞

′

=

ρ

C

h

o

r

d

(

c

)

Characteristics of C

l

vs. α

Angle of Attack, α

C

l

Slope ≈ 2π if α is in radians

and flow incompressible

α = α

0

Angle of

zero lift

Stall

α

C

l

α = α

0

Angle of

zero lift

Cambered airfoil

Symmetric Airfoil

Angle of Zero Lift Depends on Camber

Model for C

l

at Low α (No Stall)

( )

0

2 α α π − =

l

C

• If we know how an airfoil behaves in low speed,

incompressible flow, we can easily estimate how the lift will be

altered in high speed flight (thin airfoil theory)

• This relation works until the Mach number over the airfoil

exceeds 1 somewhere

Incompressible Flow:

Compressible Flow:

( )

2

,

0

2

1 1

2

∞ ∞

−

= −

−

=

M

C

M

C

ible incompress l

l

α α

π

Drag is caused by

• Skin Friction - The air molecules try to drag the airfoil

with them (due to viscosity)

• Form Drag - The flow separates near the trailing

edge, due to the shape of the body; This causes low

pressures, pulling the object back

• Wave Drag - Shock waves form over the airfoil,

converting energy of the flow into heat, causing drag

• …and one more we need to be in 3 dimensions to

talk about…(Induced Drag)

Particles away

from the

airfoil move

unhindered

Skin Friction and the Boundary Layer

This region of low

speed flow is called

the boundary layer

Particles near the

airfoil stick to the

surface, and try to

slow down the

nearby particles

A tug of war results - airfoil is dragged back with the flow

Laminar Flow

• For laminar flow:

– Streamlines move in an orderly fashion - layer by layer

– The mixing between layers is due to molecular motion, and is very slow

– Drag per unit area is proportional to the slope of the velocity profile at

the wall

– Drag is relatively small

Airfoil Surface

This slope

determines the drag

Turbulent Flow

• For turbulent flow:

– highly unsteady, three-dimensional, and chaotic

– It can still be viewed in a time-averaged manner

• For example, at each point in the flow, we can measure velocities

once every millisecond to collect 1000 samples and average

“Time-Averaged”Turbulent Flow

• Velocity varies rapidly near the wall due to increased mixing

• The slope is higher, so skin friction is higher

• Paradoxically: Because separation properties are different,

form drag could actually be lower and max lift higher

Will it be Laminar or Turbulent?

• Reynolds number

• Surface roughness

• State of flow

(if its already turbulent, it’s not going to become laminar)

• Pressure gradient

• …and other factors…

• On a typical wing, flow is laminar near the leading

edge, but eventually trips to turbulent for (typically)

most of the surface

Drag vs. Mach (Compressibility)

Skin Friction

Wave Drag

(mostly)

C

d

M

Other Popular Airfoil Shapes

• NACA 23012

– 5-digit series

• Laminar flow

– Keep more

laminar flow

• Supercritical

– Delay drag

rise (wave drag)

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