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# MCEN90008 Fluid Dynamics, 2013

## MCEN90008 Fluid Dynamics

Flow over an aerofoil
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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

## Figure 1: Forces acting on the airfoil and coordinate system

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
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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

## Table 1: Sign of Fx and Fy if Cp is positive

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

## Table 2: Sign of Fx and Fy if Cp is negative

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

## Figure 2: The airfoil surrounded by positive pressure

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 .

## Option 1 - separate consideration of upper, lower, front and back.

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

## Fy contribution from lower surface

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 =

## Fx contribution from front surface

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

## Fx contribution from back surface

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

## If you are going to use this method, it is absolutely essential that

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.

## Option 2 - line integral.

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)