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A perspective on turbulence models for aerodynamic flows

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Turbulence modelling options are discussed in the context of steady aerodynamic flows. After a brief overview of popular turbulence models, four criteria are presented that should be satisfied in order to conclusively evaluate a turbulence model with respect to its ability to predict a specific flow. Many past studies do not meet these criteria. This is followed by some sample results for several turbulence models, including one-equation, two-equation and algebraic Reynolds stress models. The three main conclusions are as follows. First, more combined experimental-numerical studies are needed that meet the four criteria for assessment of turbulence models. Second, of the models studied, the Spalart-Allmaras model provides the most accurate results for the high-lift flows examined. Finally, the most significant factor limiting our present ability to predict many aerodynamic flows accurately is our inability to reliably predict laminar-turbulent transition. Until this issue is addressed, the benefits of an improved turbulence model will be limited.

Keywords: Reynolds-Averaged Navier-Stokes equations; aerodynamics; algebraic Reynolds stress models; computational fluid dynamics; high lift; multi-element airfoils; turbulence models; turbulent flows

Document Type: Research Article


Affiliations: University of Toronto Institute for Aerospace Studies, Toronto, Ontario, Canada

Publication date: April 1, 2009

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