Computational Methods for Investigation of Surface Curvature Effects on Airfoil Boundary Layer Behavior

Xiang Shen, Eldad Avital, Theodosios Korakianitis

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

11 Citations (Scopus)
429 Downloads (Pure)


This article presents computational algorithms for the design, analysis, and optimization of airfoil aerodynamic performance. The prescribed surface curvature distribution blade design (CIRCLE) method is applied to a symmetrical airfoil NACA0012 and a non-symmetrical airfoil E387 to remove their surface curvature and slope-of-curvature discontinuities. Computational fluid dynamics analysis is used to investigate the effects of curvature distribution on aerodynamic performance of the original and modified airfoils. An inviscid–viscid interaction scheme is introduced to predict the positions of laminar separation bubbles. The results are compared with experimental data obtained from tests on the original airfoil geometry. The computed aerodynamic advantages of the modified airfoils are analyzed in different operating conditions. The leading edge singularity of NACA0012 is removed and it is shown that the surface curvature discontinuity affects aerodynamic performance near the stalling angle of attack. The discontinuous slope-of-curvature distribution of E387 results in a larger laminar separation bubble at lower angles of attack and lower Reynolds numbers. It also affects the inherent performance of the airfoil at higher Reynolds numbers. It is shown that at relatively high angles of attack, a continuous slope-of-curvature distribution reduces the skin friction by suppressing both laminar and turbulent separation, and by delaying laminar-turbulent transition. It is concluded that the surface curvature distribution has significant effects on the boundary layer behavior and consequently an improved curvature distribution will lead to higher aerodynamic efficiency.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)68-82
JournalJournal of Algorithms and Computational Technology
Issue number1
Early online date6 Sept 2016
Publication statusPublished - 1 Mar 2017
Externally publishedYes


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