Experiments in Fluids

, 59:72 | Cite as

Unsteady boundary layer development on a wind turbine blade: an experimental study of a surrogate problem

  • Daniel R. Cadel
  • Di Zhang
  • K. Todd Lowe
  • Eric G. Paterson
Research Article


Wind turbines with thick blade profiles experience turbulent, periodic approach flow, leading to unsteady blade loading and large torque fluctuations on the turbine drive shaft. Presented here is an experimental study of a surrogate problem representing some key aspects of the wind turbine unsteady fluid mechanics. This experiment has been designed through joint consideration by experiment and computation, with the ultimate goal of numerical model development for aerodynamics in unsteady and turbulent flows. A cylinder at diameter Reynolds number of 65,000 and Strouhal number of 0.184 is placed 10.67 diameters upstream of a NACA 63215b airfoil with chord Reynolds number of 170,000 and chord-reduced frequency of \(k=2\pi f\frac{c}{2}/V=1.5\). Extensive flow field measurements using particle image velocimetry provide a number of insights about this flow, as well as data for model validation and development. Velocity contours on the airfoil suction side in the presence of the upstream cylinder indicate a redistribution of turbulent normal stresses from transverse to streamwise, consistent with rapid distortion theory predictions. A study of the boundary layer over the suction side of the airfoil reveals very low Reynolds number turbulent mean streamwise velocity profiles. The dominance of the high amplitude large eddy passages results in a phase lag in streamwise velocity as a function of distance from the wall. The results and accompanying description provide a new test case incorporating moderate-reduced frequency inflow for computational model validation and development.



The authors wish to acknowledge the support of the Virginia Tech Institute for Critical Technology and Applied Science (ICTAS), Award Number J0663127, program managers Dennis Grove and Jon Greene.


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Copyright information

© Springer-Verlag GmbH Germany, part of Springer Nature 2018

Authors and Affiliations

  • Daniel R. Cadel
    • 1
  • Di Zhang
    • 1
  • K. Todd Lowe
    • 1
  • Eric G. Paterson
    • 1
  1. 1.Kevin T. Crofton Department of Aerospace and Ocean EngineeringVirginia TechBlacksburgUSA

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