Flow visualization of the effect of pitch amplitudechanges on the vortical signatures behind a three-dimensional flapping airfoil

Kamalluddien Parker, K. D. Von Ellenrieder, J. Soria

Research output: Contribution to journalConference articleOther

6 Citations (Scopus)


The structure of the vortical flow behind a symmetrical airfoil of finite aspect ratio undergoing combinations of heave and pitch motions is investigated using qualitative dye flow visualization. The results are contrasted with flow visualizations obtained using electrolytic precipitation. The effect of changing the pitch amplitude is observed from the plan form view and wingtip view of the airfoil. With a Strouhal number of 0.35, Reynolds number based on airfoil chord of 164 and a phase angle of 90° (pitch displacement leading heave displacement), the maximum pitch amplitude is varied from 0° to 20°. The geometry of the downstream vortical flow is observed to change suggesting that the induced velocity from interacting structures decreases at lower pitch amplitudes. The rate of dynamic stall development may also be affected by variations in pitch amplitude since it appears that the timing of leading edge separation is affected. The flow field of an airfoil flapping periodically about a fixed axis appears to be influenced by the amplitude of pitching oscillations. At the tested Strouhal numbers the vortex formations appear to be primarily dependent on airfoil oscillation rather than heave translation. Furthermore, the results suggest that the wake structures originating from the dynamic stall process are important for the analysis of these complex flows. While the results from the two flow visualization techniques are similar, the dye flow visualization images provide greater qualitative insight. Inherently, precipitative techniques such as the one used here could provide good flow visualizations since the smoke/particles leave the surface of the airfoil, but the setup is found to be very sensitive to potential changes. The ion content in the electrolytic material was also found to play a role. Furthermore, the high ablation rate of the technique presented some practical problems.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)331-343
Number of pages13
JournalProceedings of SPIE - The International Society for Optical Engineering
Publication statusPublished - 15 Sep 2003
EventOptical Technology and Image Processing for Fluids and Solids Diagnostics 2002 - Beijing, China
Duration: 3 Sep 20026 Sep 2002


  • Dye-flow visualization
  • Electrolytic precipitation
  • Flapping/oscillating airfoil
  • Strouhal number
  • Unsteady aerodynamics
  • Vortical structures

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