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You are on page 1of 7

Flow over an aerofoil

1

Introduction

I have noted some general confusion over this laboratory with numerous similar questions

from students. Therefore I am issuing this explanatory note in the hope of clarifying

some points. For the calculations of lift and drag it is of critical importance that signs

are accounted for correctly (sign of the pressure, sign of dy and dx and the sign of the

angle ) when performing integrations. Much of this can be clarified by thinking through

the problem and sketching force diagrams.

Additional explanations

Let us redraw the airfoil problem in figure 1. The airfoil is sketched from the coordinates

supplied to you in Table 1 of the lab sheet. The black dots show the locations of the

pressure taps and I have labeled these (the trailing edge tap number 30 does not exist

on the lab model - you were asked to interpolate or average taps 1 and 29). Note that

1

the tabulated data in the lab sheet is for the upper surface from tap 15 to tap 29. The x

axis acts along the chord line of the airfoil (the line connecting the leading to the trailing

edge, shown by the red dashed line in figure 1). The y axis acts perpendicularly to this

line. The airfoil is at an angle of attack . For aircraft, a positive angle of attack (nose

up), is a clockwise rotation about the horizontal for this figure. The forces Fx and Fy

act in the x and y directions respectively. The real-world horizontal axes system xw and

yw are defined such that xw is aligned with the flow direction of U. The forces Fx and

Fy can be used to calculate lift (L) and drag (D) which are defined as the forces acting

perpendicular and parallel to the freestream. The relationship between forces acting in

the x,y and xw ,yw axes system can be written,

L = Fy cos() Fx sin()

D = Fx cos() + Fy sin()

(1)

In order to simplify things later on, I will break the airfoil into four quadrants, (i) frontupper, (ii) back-upper, (iii) back-lower, (iv) front-lower. A positive pressure always acts

perpendicularly inwards on the surface. Imagine if there were positive pressure (above

atmospheric) all around the airfoil (impossible when there is an airflow over the body).

The pressure would look as shown in figure 2 (acting always inwards to the surface). What

you should see is that a positive pressure on the upper surface gives negative Fy whereas

positive pressure on the lower surface gives positive Fy . Conversely, positive pressure on

the front surface gives positive Fx , and positive pressure on the back surface gives negative

Fx . This is summarized in the table below.

Quadrant

front-upper

back-upper

front-lower

back-lower

Cp

+ve

+ve

+ve

+ve

Fx

+ve

-ve

+ve

-ve

Fy

-ve

-ve

+ve

+ve

Similarly, if Cp is negative, the upper surface makes a positive contribution to Fy , and

the lower surface gives negative Fy . For the front part of the airfoil when Cp is negative

we get a negative contribution to Fx and the back part will give a positive Fx .

Quadrant

front-upper

back-upper

front-lower

back-lower

Cp

ve

ve

ve

ve

Fx

-ve

+ve

-ve

+ve

Fy

+ve

+ve

-ve

-ve

With your lab experiment, you have measured the discrete pressure (and therefore Cp ) at

each tap. The pressure at each tap contributes to Fx and Fy , and you need to integrate

this contribution over the entire surface of the airfoil to obtain the total Fx and Fy . You

have two options:

2

i integrate from front-to-back, and bottom-to-top (as shown in equation (6) of the

original lab sheet).

ii perform a line integral around the surface (equation (7) of original lab sheet).

Each of these choices has implications on the sign of dy and dx and the equations you

use for Fx and Fy .

Fy contribution from upper surface

In this case we integrate from the leading to the trailing edge on the upper surface from

tap 15 to tap 30, via tap 23.

Figure 3: Pressure forces acting on a small element of the airfoil upper-front surface

Integrating from front-to-back, dx is always positive. For the upper surface we can write,

dFy = (dF ) cos = (pupper ds)

dx

= pupper dx

ds

In this case we integrate from the leading to trailing edge on the lower surface from tap

15 to tap 30, via tap 7.

Figure 4: Pressure forces acting on a small element of the airfoil lower-back surface

Integrating from front-to-back, dx is always positive. For the lower surface we can write,

dFy = (dF ) cos = (plower ds)

dx

= plower dx

ds

Fy =

In this case we integrate from the bottom (ymin ) to the top (ymax ) on the front surface

from tap 7 to tap 23, via tap 15.

Integrating from bottom-to-top, dy is always positive. For the front surface we can write

(looking at figure 3)

dFx = (dF ) sin = (pf ront ds)

dy

= pf ront dy

ds

In this case we integrate from the bottom (ymin ) to the top (ymax ) on the back surface

from tap 7 to tap 23, via tap 1.

Integrating from bottom-to-top, dy is always positive. For the back surface we can write

(looking at figure 4)

dFx = (dF ) sin = (pback ds)

dy

= pback dy

ds

Thus we can write that the total Fx from the front and back,

Z ymax

(pf ront pback )dx

Fx =

ymin

you integrate in the correct direction (and within the appropriate

tap limits). That means integrating from tap 15 to 30 (via 23) for

the upper surface, from tap 15 to 30 (via 7) for the lower surface,

and from 7 to 23 (via 15 or 1) for the front and back respectively).

Get this wrong - and your answers will be incorrect.

For the line integral, we simply integrate in a clockwise path around the airfoil, using the

following equations for Fx and Fy ,

dFx = p dy

dFy = p dx

Fx =

(2)

(3)

p dy

sI

Fy =

p dx

Figure 5: A summary of the line integral for the front-upper, back-upper, back-lower and

front-lower surfaces. Direction of integration shown by red arrows.

We integrate from tap 15, via 23 to tap 30 and then back on the lower surface from tap

30 to 15, via 7. Note that the signs of dy and dx change according to the quadrant, but

the equations for Fx and Fy remain the same.

Quadrant dx

front-upper +ve

back-upper +ve

back-lower ve

front-lower ve

dy

+ve

-ve

-ve

+ve

Cx

Cy

I

y

p dy

= 1 2

= Cp d

c

U c 1

s

2 H

I

x

p dx

= 1 s 2

= Cp d

c

U c 1

s

2

s

(4)

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