Geometrical effects on the airfoil flow separation and transition

Wei Zhang, Wan Cheng, Wei Gao, Adnan Qamar, Ravi Samtaney

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

46 Scopus citations


We present results from direct numerical simulations (DNS) of incompressible flow over two airfoils, NACA-4412 and NACA-0012-64, to investigate the effects of the airfoil geometry on the flow separation and transition patterns at Re=104 and 10 degrees incidence. The two chosen airfoils are geometrically similar except for maximum camber (respectively 4%C and 0 with C the chord length), which results in a larger projection area with respect to the incoming flow for the NACA-4412 airfoil, and a larger leeward surface curvature at the leading edge for the NACA-0012-64 airfoil. The governing equations are discretized using an energy conservative fourth-order spatial discretization scheme. An assessment on the two-point correlation indicates that a spanwise domain size of 0.8C is sufficiently large for the present simulations. We discuss flow separation at the airfoil leading edge, transition of the separated shear layer to three-dimensional flow and subsequently to turbulence. Numerical results reveal a stronger adverse pressure gradient field in the leading edge region of the NACA-0012-64 airfoil due to the rapidly varying surface curvature. As a result, the flow experiences detachment at x/C=0.08, and the separated shear layer transition via Kelvin-Helmholtz mechanism occurs at x/C=0.29 with fully developed turbulent flow around x/C=0.80. These flow development phases are delayed to occur at much downstream positions, respectively, observed around x/C=0.25, 0.71 and 1.15 for the NACA-4412 airfoil. The turbulent intensity, measured by the turbulent fluctuations and turbulent Reynolds stresses, are much larger for NACA-0012-64 from the transition onset until the airfoil trailing edge, while turbulence develops significantly downstream of the trailing edge for the NACA-4412 airfoil. For both airfoils, our DNS results indicate that the mean Reynolds stress u'u'/U02 reaches its maximum value at a distance from the surface approximately equal to the displacement thickness, consistent with the experimental observations (Boutilier & Yarusevych, Phys. Fluids, 2012). A quantitative eigen-system analysis on the instantaneous velocity field shows that although the flow over an airfoil is intrinsically anisotropic, the alignments between the vorticity vector and the eigenvectors ofSij and SikSkj+ΩikΩkj are quite similar to those of the homogeneous isotropic turbulent flows due to the formation of vortex tubes. © 2015 Elsevier Ltd.
Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)60-73
Number of pages14
JournalComputers & Fluids
StatePublished - Apr 26 2015

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • General Engineering
  • General Computer Science


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