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Numerical study of boundary layer transition using intermittency model

Massoud Tatar (Faculty of New Sciences and Technologies, University of Tehran, Tehran, Islamic Republic of Iran)
Mojtaba Tahani (Faculty of New Sciences and Technologies, University of Tehran, Tehran, Islamic Republic of Iran)
Mehran Masdari (Faculty of New Sciences and Technologies, University of Tehran, Tehran, Islamic Republic of Iran)

Aircraft Engineering and Aerospace Technology

ISSN: 0002-2667

Article publication date: 8 July 2019

Issue publication date: 21 August 2019



In this paper, the applicability of shear stress transport k-ω model along with the intermittency concept has been investigated over pitching airfoils to capture the laminar separation bubble (LSB) position and the boundary layer transition movement. The effect of reduced frequency of oscillations on boundary layer response is also examined.


A two-dimensional computational fluid dynamic code was developed to compute the effects of unsteadiness on LSB formation, transition point movement, pressure distribution and lift force over an oscillating airfoil using transport equation of intermittency accompanied by the k-ω model.


The results indicate that increasing the angle of attack over the stationary airfoil causes the LSB size to shorten, leading to a rise in wall shear stress and pressure suction peak. In unsteady cases, both three- and four-equation models are capable of capturing the experimentally measured transition point well. The transition is delayed for an unsteady boundary layer in comparison with that for a static airfoil at the same angle of attack. Increasing the unsteadiness of flow, i.e. reduced frequency, moves the transition point toward the trailing edge of the airfoil. This increment also results in lower static pressure suction peak and hence lower lift produced by the airfoil. It was also found that the fully turbulent k-ω shear–stress transport (SST) model cannot capture the so-called figure-of-eight region in lift coefficient and the employment of intermittency transport equation is essential.

Practical implications

Boundary layer transition and unsteady flow characteristics owing to airfoil motion are both important for many engineering applications including micro air vehicles as well as helicopter blade, wind turbine and aircraft maneuvers. In this paper, the accuracy of transition modeling based on intermittency transport concept and the response of boundary layer to unsteadiness are investigated.


As a conclusion, the contribution of this paper is to assess the ability of intermittency transport models to predict LSB and transition point movements, static pressure distribution and aerodynamic lift variations and boundary layer flow pattern over dynamic pitching airfoils with regard to oscillation frequency effects for engineering problems.



Tatar, M., Tahani, M. and Masdari, M. (2019), "Numerical study of boundary layer transition using intermittency model", Aircraft Engineering and Aerospace Technology, Vol. 91 No. 8, pp. 1156-1168.



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