Steady-state aeroelasticity of a ram-air wing for airborne wind energy applications
, TU Delft
March 30, 2020
In this paper we present a computational approach to simulate the steady-state aeroelastic deformation of a ram-air kite for airborne wind energy applications. The approach is based on a computational fluid dynamics (CFD) solver that is two-way coupled with a finite element (FE) solver. All components of the framework, including the meshing tools and the coupling library, are available in open source. The flow around the wing is described by the steady-state Reynolds-averaged Navier-Stokes (RANS) equations closed by an SST turbulence model. The FE model of the cellular membrane structure includes a wrinkling model and uses dynamic relaxation to find the deformed steady-state shape. Each simulation comprises four distinct steps: (1) generating the FE mesh of the design geometry, (2) pre-inflation of the wing, applying a uniform pressure on the inside, (3) generating the CFD mesh around the pre-inflated wing, and (4) activating the exterior flow and two-way coupling iterations. We first present results for the aerodynamics of the pre-inflated rigid ram-air wing and compare these to similar results for a leading edge inflatable (LEI) tube kite. Both wings are characterized by a high anhedral angle and low aspect ratio which induce spanwise flows that reduce the aerodynamic performance. The comparison shows a better performance for the LEI wing which can be attributed to its higher aspect ratio. The aeroelastic deformation of the ram-air wing further improves the aerodynamic performance, primarily because of the increasing camber which in turn increases the lift force. A competing aeroelastic phenomenon is the formation of bumps near the leading edge which increase the drag.