- The rising global trend to reduce dependence on fossil fuels has provided significant motivation toward the development of alternative energy conversion methods and new technologies to improve their efficiency. Recently, oscillating energy harvesters have shown promise as highly efficient and scalable turbines, which can be implemented in areas where traditional energy extraction and conversion are either unfeasible or cost prohibitive. Although such devices are quickly gaining popularity, there remain a number of hurdles in the understanding of their underlying fluid dynamics phenomena.
The ability to achieve high efficiency power output from oscillating airfoil energy harvesters requires exploitation of the complexities of the event of dynamic stall. During dynamic stall, the oncoming flow separates at the leading edge of the airfoil to form leading edge vortex (LEV) structures. While it is well known that LEVs play a significant role in aerodynamic force generation in unsteady animal flight (e.g. insects and birds), there is still a need to further understand their spatio-temporal evolution in order to design more effective energy harvesting enhancement mechanisms.
In this work, we conduct extensive experimental investigations to shed-light on the flow physics of a heaving and pitching airfoil energy harvester
operating at reduced frequencies of k = fc/U∞ = 0.06-0.18, pitching amplitude of theta₀ = 75 degrees and heaving amplitude of h₀ =0.6c. The experimental work involves the use of two-component particle image velocimetry (PIV) measurements conducted in a wind tunnel facility at Oregon State University. Velocity fields obtained from the PIV measurements are analyzed qualitatively and quantitatively to provide a description of the dynamics of LEVs and other flow structures that may be present during dynamic stall. Due to the difficulties of accurately measuring aerodynamic forces in highly unsteady flows in wind tunnels, a reduced-order model based on the vortex-impulse theory is proposed for estimating the aerodynamic loadings and power output using flow field data. The reduced-order model is shown to be dominated by two terms that have a clear physical interpretation: (i) the time rate of change of the impulse of vortical structures and (ii) the Kutta-Joukowski force which indirectly represents the history effect of vortex shedding in the far wake. Furthermore, the effects of a bio-inspired flow control mechanism based on deforming airfoil surfaces on the flow dynamics and energy harvesting performance are investigated.
The results show that the aerodynamic loadings, and hence power output, are highly dependent on the formation, growth rate, trajectory and detachment of the LEV. It is shown that the energy harvesting efficiency increases with increasing reduced frequency, peaking at 25% when k = 0.14, agreeing very well with published numerical results. At this optimal reduced frequency, the time scales of the LEV evolution and airfoil kinematics are matched, resulting in highly correlated aerodynamic load generation and airfoil motion. When operating at k > 0.14, it is shown that the aerodynamic moment and airfoil pitching motion become negatively correlated and as a result, the energy harvesting performance is deteriorated. Furthermore, by using a deforming airfoil surface at the leading and trailing edges, the peak energy harvesting efficiency is shown to increase by approximately 17% and 25% relative to the rigid airfoil, respectively. The performance enhancement is associated with enhanced aerodynamic forces for both the deforming leading and trailing edges. In addition, the deforming trailing edge airfoil is shown to enhance the correlation between the aerodynamic moment and pitching motion at higher reduced frequencies, resulting in a peak efficiency at k = 0.18 as opposed to k = 0.14 for the rigid airfoil.