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Plunging low aspect ratio wings in low Reynolds number flows

A growing desire exists to develop Micro Air Vehicles (MA Vs) that fall within a 15cm span. Their small scale and low operating flight speeds encourage a low Reynolds Number (Re) regime, in the order of Re - 104 - 105 . Wings under these conditions are highly susceptible to separated flows, posing a significant challenge for the MA V. Natural flyers are able to confront these issues through flapping flight, which has inspired an entire research field on the aerodynamics of oscillating wings. While the number of parameters that govern the problem is exhaustive, studies are required to explain the contribution of each and any phenomena that may ensue. This lends itself to a canonical approach. This thesis presents an experimental study on various wing geometries, undergoing a small amplitude oscillation in the form of a pure plunge. The focus lies on understanding the three-dimensional effects of oscillating a finite wing with a positive geometric angle of attack, to encourage greater lift than that achieved from an unforced wing. This expands on the current research which predominantly focuses on the thrust generating capabilities of a 'flapping' airfoil. Force measurements, hot-film measurements, Particle Image Velocimetry (PIV) and volumetric velocimetry, are used to examine the performance and flow topology that ensues from actuating the various wings. The study presents time-averaged force measurements as a function of Strouhal number (non-dimensionalised plunge frequency) for the various low aspect ratio wings. It is shown that while the finite nature of these wings suppresses lift, significant improvements are nonetheless possible. For example, a semi Aspect Ratio = 2 NACA0012 rectangular wing, is able to achieve 180% more lift than the unforced wing. A phenomenon arises in which peaks are observed in the time-averaged lift curve, for various rectangular and delta wing planforms. This suggests optimal lift conditions at particular Strouhal numbers. In a similar manner to a 2D airfoil the oscillating wing stimulates the formation of both leading and trailing-edge vortices. The trajectory and timing of these vortices, in relation to the plunge cycle, appear to be significantly affected by Strouhal number. At particular frequencies, the vortices interact in such a way that their induced flow generates a significant region of low velocity, recirculating flow near the wing. The size of the recirculating region closely correlates with the shape of the time-averaged lift curve, agreeing well with points of troughs and peaks when this region is maximised and minimised, respectively. It is thought that these Wing/vortex and vortex/vortex interactions contribute to the selection of optimal frequencies, and therefore determine optimal lift for the oscillating wing.
Date January 2014
CreatorsCalderon, Dario
ContributorsGursul, Ismet ; Wang, Zhijin
PublisherUniversity of Bath
Source SetsEthos UK
Detected LanguageEnglish
TypeElectronic Thesis or Dissertation

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