Turbine Blade Separation

[original media no longer available]

Maintaining consistent air flow along the contours of an object is key to aerodynamic efficiency. When air flow separates or forms a recirculation zone, the drag increases and efficiency drops. On wind turbine blades, flow often separates on the root end of the blade near its attachment point. This behavior is apparent in the video above at 0:34. The tufts in the foreground on the turning blade flap and flutter with no clear pattern because the air flow has separated from the surface. In the subsequent clip, a line of vortex generators has been attached near the leading edge of the blade. These structures–also commonly seen on airplanes–trail vortices behind them, mixing the flow and generating a turbulent boundary layer which is better able to resist flow separation. The effect on the flow is clear from the tufts, most of which now point in a consistent direction with little to no fluttering, indicating that the air flow has remained attached. (Video credit: Smart Blade Gmbh/Technische Universität Berlin)

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