Wingtip vortices and free shear layer interaction in the vicinity of maximum lift to drag ratio lift condition

Date of Award


Degree Name

Ph.D. in Aerospace Engineering


Department of Mechanical and Aerospace Engineering


Advisor: Aaron Altman


Cost-effective air-travel is something everyone wishes for when it comes to booking flights. The continued and projected increase in commercial air travel advocates for energy efficient airplanes, reduced carbon footprint, and a strong need to accommodate more airplanes into airports. All of these needs are directly affected by the magnitudes of drag these aircraft experience and the nature of their wingtip vortex. A large portion of the aerodynamic drag results from the airflow rolling from the higher pressure side of the wing to the lower pressure side, causing the wingtip vortices. The generation of this particular drag is inevitable however, a more fundamental understanding of the phenomenon could result in applications whose benefits extend much beyond the relatively minuscule benefits of commonly-used winglets. Maximizing airport efficiency calls for shorter intervals between takeoffs and landings. Wingtip vortices can be hazardous for following aircraft that may fly directly through the high-velocity swirls causing upsets at vulnerably low speeds and altitudes. The vortex system in the near wake is typically more complex since strong vortices tend to continue developing throughout the near wake region. Several chord lengths distance downstream of a wing, the so-called fully rolled up wing wake evolves into a combination of a discrete wingtip vortex pair and a free shear layer. Lift induced drag is generated as a byproduct of downwash induced by the wingtip vortices. The parasite drag results from a combination of form/pressure drag and the upper and lower surface boundary layers. These parasite effects amalgamate to create the free shear layer in the wake. While the wingtip vortices embody a large portion of the total drag at lifting angles, flow properties in the free shear layer also reveal their contribution to the aerodynamic efficiency of the aircraft. Since aircraft rarely cruise at maximum aerodynamic efficiency, a better understanding of the balance between the lift induced drag (wingtip vortices) and parasite drag (free shear layer) can have a significant impact. Particle Image Velocimetry (PIV) experiments were performed at a) a water tunnel at ILR Aachen, Germany, and b) at the University of Dayton Low Speed Wind Tunnel in the near wake of an AR 6 wing with a Clark-Y airfoil to investigate the characteristics of the wingtip vortex and free shear layer at angles of attack in the vicinity of maximum aerodynamic efficiency for the wing. The data was taken 1.5 and 3 chord lengths downstream of the wing at varying free-stream velocities. A unique exergy-based technique was introduced to quantify distinct changes in the wingtip vortex axial core flow. The existence of wingtip vortex axial core flow transformation from wake-like (velocity less-than the freestream) to jet-like (velocity greater-than the freestream) behavior in the vicinity of the maximum (L/D) angles was observed. The exergy-based technique was able to identify the change in the out of plane profile and corresponding changes in the L/D performance. The resulting velocity components in and around the free shear layer in the wing wake showed counter flow in the cross-flow plane presumably corresponding to behavior associated with the flow over the upper and lower surfaces of the wing. Even though the velocity magnitudes in the free shear layer in cross-flow plane are a small fraction of the freestream velocity (̃10%), significant directional flow was observed. An indication of the possibility of the transfer of momentum (from inboard to outboard of the wing) was identified through spanwise flow corresponding to the upper and lower surfaces through the free shear layer in the wake. A transition from minimal cross flow in the free shear layer to a well-established shear flow in the spanwise direction occurs in the vicinity of maximum lift-to-drag ratio (max L/D) angle of attack. A distinctive balance between the lift induced drag and parasite drag was identified. Improved understanding of this relationship could be extended not only to improve aircraft performance through the reduction of lift induced drag, but also to air vehicle performance in off-design cruise conditions.


Vortex-motion Testing, Drag (Aerodynamics) Testing, Airplanes Wings Design and construction, Airplanes Energy consumption, Aerodynamics, Particle image velocimetry, Aerospace Engineering, Fluid Dynamics, Wingtip Vortices, Free Shear Layer, Circulation, Vortex Identification, Exergy Destruction Rate, Particle Image Velocimetry, Momentum Transfer, University of Dayton Low Speed Wind Tunnel, Water Tunnel, Aerodynamic Efficiency

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Copyright 2017, author