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Over an Airfoil
Alisa Mizukami

Experimental Fluid Mechanics and Aerodynamics Laboratory

Case introduction to air flow over an airfoil

Computational fluid dynamics simulation

Simulation results
A structure with curved surfaces
Airfoil: designed to give the most favorable
ratio of lift to drag in flight
Drag & Lift

Can be
modeled as
Want high lift, low drag airfoil
The Situation: • Air flow from
airfoil nose (left)
to tail (right)

• With attack angle,

air flows at specified
angle with respect to
6° the direction of motion
Fluent (v18.2)
• Computational Fluid
Dynamics (CFD) Software

• Simulates fluid flow

1 Start! 2 Geometry 3 Mesh

4 Setup 5 Solution 6 Results

Boundary Conditions
Velocity Inlet: Velocity Inlet
Wall Pressure
(Airfoil) Outlet
Defines flow velocity

Pressure Outlet:
Specifies static pressure
(for supersonic flow, pressure
value is taken from upstream
Incompressible Flow
Over an Airfoil Tutorial
1. Incompressible Flow
• 1 m/s, 6° angle of attack
2. Supersonic Flow, Denser Mesh
• 450 m/s, no angle
• 450 m/s, 6° angle of attack
• 450 m/s, no angle, pressure outlet boundary condition
• 450 m/s, no angle, symmetry boundary condition
• 1000 m/s, no angle
3. Supersonic Flow, Larger Domain
• 450 m/s, no angle
• 450 m/s, 6° angle of attack
Pressure Outlet
Incompressible Wall
Flow Over an

12.5 m
12.5 m
Incompressible 12.5 m
Flow Mesh
• 15,300 Nodes
• 15,000 Elements


12.5 m
Flow Setup
• Density-Based Solver

• Inviscid

• Constant Density: 1 kg/m3

• Velocity: 1 m/s at 6° attack angle

1 m/s
• Mach Number: 0.00292
• Courant Number: (default)
• Iterations: 3,000
• Limit of Residuals: 10-6
(limit set by user)
• Convergence: Yes
1 m/s, 6˚ Angle, Pressure Contour

Effects are closely centered around airfoil

1 m/s, 6˚ Angle, Mesh Quality
Mesh Drag Lift Lift Error of
Coefficient Coefficient Experimental (%)
Coarser 0.01750 0.596 11.2

Original 0.00774 0.647 2.47 Most

Denser 0.00366 0.681 2.64

Experimental 0.00900 0.663 ---


Pressure Outlet
Flow Over an Wall
Airfoil 450 m/s
1000 m/s

(Denser Mesh)
12.5 m
12.5 m
Why denser mesh? Cons
Solver takes longer
to process detailed
To capture the thin results in a region
shockwave effect where gas
properties can be
approximated as
the same
Supersonic 12.5 m

Flow Mesh
Denser Mesh:
• 160,800 Nodes
• 160,000 Elements

Original: 15,300 Nodes

15,000 Elements
12.5 m
Flow Setup
• Density-Based Solver
• Inviscid
• Ideal Gas
• Energy Equation
450 m/s
• Mach Number: 1.32
• Courant Number: 5 (default)
• Iterations: 5000
• Limit of residuals: 10-5
• Convergence: No
Small regions in the gas where
gas properties (density,
pressure, temperature) change θ
almost instantaneously.
3 types:
• Normal 𝑐
• Oblique 𝑠𝑖𝑛𝜃 =
• Bow
Expansion Waves
• Gradual decrease in
pressure and density

• Isentropic

• Built of infinitesimal
Mach waves
450 m/s, Density Contour

Shockwave has distance

to the airfoil nose
Reflections at pressure outlet (“detached”)
Expansion Waves


Bow Shockwave
Changing Boundary Conditions
• Geometry is assumed to be
symmetrical across the boundary
• No flux across boundary
Pressure Outlet
• Specifies pressure at this boundary
450 m/s, Symmetry Boundary Condition

Pressure Outlet

450 m/s, Velocity Inlet vs Symmetry
Image Transparency
Velocity Inlet 0%
Symmetry 50%

same angle
450 m/s, Pressure Outlet Boundary Condition
Pressure Outlet
The location of
abnormality is

Pressure Outlet
Initially flow
develops similar to
original boundary
Pressure Outlet conditions
450 m/s, Pressure Outlet Boundary Condition

1000 m/s
• Mach Number: 2.94
• Courant Number: 0.1
• Iterations: 10,000
• Limit of Residuals: 10-3
• Convergence: No
1000 m/s, Density Contour

Shockwave closer to the

No reflections at pressure outlet airfoil nose than 450 m/s
1000 m/s, Density vs Pressure

Density Contour Pressure Contour

1000 m/s, Density vs Pressure

Density Contour Pressure Contour

1000 m/s, Velocity Streamline

Velocity Streamline
1000 m/s Animation

Pressure Outlet
Flow Over an Wall
Airfoil 450 m/s

(Larger Domain) 35.0 m

12.5 m
Why larger domain? Cons

To get the shockwaves Solver also has to

to hit the pressure calculate additional
values for enlarged
outlet before the area that is
velocity inlet unnecessary
Supersonic Flow 35.0 m

Mesh (Enlarged)
Larger Mesh:
• 201,100 Nodes
• 200,000 Elements

Denser: 160,800 Nodes

160,000 Elements

12.5 m
450 m/s, Density Contour

No reflections at
pressure outlet
450 m/s, 6˚ Angle, Density

Stronger shock
(larger turn angle)
450 m/s, 6° Angle Animation
The arc of the C-Mesh domain must be a velocity inlet

The shock must hit the pressure outlet before it hits the
velocity inlet

Future topics: Unsteady flow, varying airfoil shapes

2. Elert, Glenn. “Shock Waves.” Shock Waves – The Physics Hypertextbook,
5. “Compressible Flow.” THERMOPEDIA™,
6. “Supersonic Flow.” The Free Dictionary, Farlex,
7. Supersonic Expansion by Turning,