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# Chapter 6

## Flat plate aerodynamics

6.1 Plane ideal ow over a thin at plate
From the conformal mapping of 5.2.4, the complex velocity (in the z-plane) for a stream of
speed q

## at an angle to a thin at plate of length c is given by

w(z) =
dW
dz
=
dW/d
dz/d
(6.1)
where the complex potential W is given by (5.23)
W =
q

c
4
_
4
ce
i
+
ce
i
4
_
+
i
2
ln
4
ce
i
.
and the mapping by (5.13)
z = f() = +
c
2
+
c
2
16
.
The numerator (which is the complex velocity in the -plane) is
dW
d
=
q

c
4
_
4
ce
i

ce
i
4
2
_
+
i
2
(6.2)
and the denominator (the complex factor arising from the mapping) is
dz
d
= 1
c
2
16
2
. (6.3)
Hence
w(z) =
qc
4
_
4
ce
i

ce
i
4
2
_
+
i
2
1
c
2
16
2
=
q

_
4
ce
i

ce
i
4
_
+
2i
c
4
c

c
4
. (6.4)
Notice that the denominator vanishes at 4 = c ; i.e. z = 0 and c ; so that the velocity will be
unbounded at both edges of the plate unless the numerator vanishes there too.
On the circle 4|| = c we have
4 = ce
i
(6.5)
z = f
_
c
4
e
i
_
=
c
4
e
i
+
c
2
+
c
4
e
i
=
c
2
(1 + cos ) . (6.6)
55
56 AERODYNAMICS I COURSE NOTES, 2005
(z) ()
Figure 6.1: Flow over a thin plate at incidence =

2
with zero circulation (z), and ow
over a circle (), being z- and -plane representations of the complex potential (5.23) with the
Joukowsky transformation (5.13).
This is real and so equal to x. In a sense, can be thought of as an alternative coordinate x for
points along the plate; the forward and inverse coordinate transformations are
x() =
c
2
(1 + cos ) (6.7)
(x) = arccos
_
2x
c
1
_
. (6.8)
In this context, is called the eccentric angle (Milne-Thomson 1973, p. 136).
On the plate then the complex velocity is
w(x) = w(x())
q

_
e
i()
e
i()
_
+
2i
c
e
i
e
i
=
q

sin( ) +

c
sin
. (6.9)
This is real; this means w = u and v = 0 , which corresponds to no ow through the plate (v
being the component of velocity normal to the horizontal plate, which lies in the x-axis).
6.1.1 Stagnation points
The velocity on the plate vanishes when
cq

sin( ) + = 0 . (6.10)
For example, if =

2
and = 0 (which corresponds to ow, without circulation, broadside
on to the plate), the stagnation points occur at =

2
; i.e. x =
c
2
on the upper and lower sides
of the plate; which makes sense on symmetry grounds. This is plotted in gure 6.1 (z).
As another example, in gure 5.4 we have =

6
and = 0 so that the stagnation points
are =

6
and =
5
6
; i.e.
x
c
=
1 + cos
2
=
_
2+

3
4
.
= 0.933 , on the upper side
2

3
4
.
= 0.067 , on the lower side .
This is plausible from the stream-line pattern in gure 5.4 (z).
Flat plate aerodynamics 57
6.1.2 The KuttaJoukowsky condition
Also, the velocity on the surface of the plate is undened when sin = 0 ; i.e. = 0 or ; i.e.
x = c or 0 , the trailing and leading edges. If the numerator is nonzero there, the velocity is
innite. However, if the numerator vanishes at one of these points as in (6.10), a nite velocity
might be obtained (the limit would have to be investigated more carefully, using lH opitals rule
for example). This could be used as a condition to determine :
= cq

## sin, (trailing edge) (6.11)

or = cq

sin if the condition were enforced at the leading edge instead. The rst of
thesethe condition that the singularity at the trailing edge be cancelledis known as the Kutta
Joukowsky condition (Goldstein 1938, p. 34; Abbott and von Doenho 1959, p. 52; Anderson
2001, pp. 290295; Bertin 2002, p. 202; Houghton and Carpenter 2003, pp. 160162). It is
sometimes known as the Kutta condition (Kuethe and Chow 1998, pp. 108, 136) or Joukowskis
hypothesis (Milne-Thomson 1973, p. 115).
Notice that the KuttaJoukowsky condition leads to a positive circulation, and therefore, by
the KuttaJoukowsky theorem (4.48), a positive lift. Since this is a desirable thing, it suggests
that wing sections should have sharp trailing edges; to eliminate the leading edge velocity singu-
larity, wing section leading edges are rounded. Thus, in this treatment of the thin plate, we are
only interested in the KuttaJoukowsky condition, and ignore the diculty at the leading edge,
knowing that it doesnt arise for real wing sections.
The stream-lines for the thin at plate with the KuttaJoukowsky condition were shown in
gure 5.5, where it is seen that the ow leaves the trailing edge smoothly.
6.1.3 Lift on a thin at plate
Notice that is the circulation around any loop enclosing the thin at plate. To see this, use
the rule (4.14)

C
= [W]
C
(6.12)
and the expression (5.23) for W ; as the outline of the plate is traced anticlockwise, = ae
i
goes
from ae
i0
to ae
i2
which decreases W by .
Now that the circulation is related to the incidence by the KuttaJoukowsky condition (6.11),
the lift per unit span can be calculated from the KuttaJoukowsky theorem (4.48) as
= q

= q
2

c sin (6.13)
and the two-dimensional lift coecient as
C

1
2
q
2

c
= 2sin. (6.14)
Thus we have a simple and important result for the lift coecient of a thin at plate as
a function of incidence. The result agrees quite well with the experimentally measured lift for
at plates for angles of incidence up to about 3

## (Anderson 2001, p. 333). At higher incidence,

the ow separates from the upper surface of the plate and the vortex sheet model is no longer
accurate. This arises because of the innite suction at the leading edge, and can be avoided till
higher incidence by rounding the leading edge; thus the characteristic shape of wing sections:
rounded at the leading edge and sharp at the trailing edge.
Since (6.14) only holds for small values of , its often convenient to invoke the small-angle
approximation for the sine (where is in radians)
sin ( 0) . (6.15)
58 AERODYNAMICS I COURSE NOTES, 2005
-4
-3
-2
-1
0
1
2
3
4
0 0.2 0.4 0.6 0.8 1
R
E
D
U
C
E
D

H
O
R
I
Z
O
N
T
A
L

V
E
L
O
C
I
T
Y
,

u
/
q

## FRACTIONAL POSITION ALONG CHORD, x/c

upper
lower
Figure 6.2: The speed distribution along a thin at plate, with the KuttaJoukowsky condition,
for incidence =

6
.
6.1.4 Surface speed distribution
Accepting the KuttaJoukowsky condition (6.11), the ow over the plate is
u =
q

{sin( ) + sin}
sin
(6.16)
=
q

## {cos sin sin cos + sin}

sin
(6.17)
= q

cos
_
1 + tan
1 cos
sin
_
. (6.18)
The rst term, q

cos , is just the x-component of velocity of the free-stream; the other is the
correction for the at plate. The correction factor (1cos )/ sin does become innite at =
(the leading edge), but on the trailing edge the numerator vanishes too so, using lH opitals rule,
lim
0
1 cos
sin
_
=
0
0
_
= lim
0
sin
cos
= 0 . (6.19)
Thus, with the KuttaJoukowsky condition, the velocity at the trailing edge should have a
horizontal component equal to that of the free-stream and a zero vertical component. The
surface speed distribution along the plate is plotted in gure 6.2 for =

6
(the same case as
gure 5.5). In the gure can be seen:
just one stagnation point, on the underside at = 2 , x =
c
2
(1 cos 2) =
c
4
, which
is consistent with (6.18)
Flat plate aerodynamics 59
-4
-3
-2
-1
0
1
2
3
4
0 0.2 0.4 0.6 0.8 1
P
R
E
S
S
U
R
E

C
O
E
F
F
I
C
I
E
N
T
,

C
p
FRACTIONAL POSITION ALONG CHORD, x/c
upper
lower
Figure 6.3: The pressure distribution along a thin at plate at =

6
.
innite speed at the leading edge, left underneath and right above, as the uid ows
backward along the underside from the stagnation point to the leading edge and then
around to the upper surface; and
a speed
u
q
= cos =

3/2
.
= 0.866 at the trailing edge, equal to the horizontal component
of the free-stream.
6.1.5 Pressure distribution
Knowing the speed on the surface, the pressure distribution can be calculated using Bernoullis
equation for irrotational ow (2.26). With this, the pressure coecient (2.9) is
C
p

p p

1
2
q
2

= 1
q
2
q
2

(6.20)
which on the surface (where q = |u| ) is
C
p
= 1
u
2
q
2

= 1 cos
2

_
1 + tan
1 cos
sin
_
2
(6.21)
and is plotted in gure 6.3.
6.1.6 Distribution of circulation
Because of the innite suction at the leading edge (C
p
as ), its dicult to calculate
the aerodynamic force from the pressure distribution in this case (Milne-Thomson 1973, p. 128),
but we can use the KuttaJoukowsky theorem and get the lift from the circulation.
60 AERODYNAMICS I COURSE NOTES, 2005
0
c
u
U
x
u
L
x
0
0
Figure 6.4: Innitesimal circuit around a point on the thin at plate, showing that local vortex
strength is proportional to the dierence in the tangential velocity across the plate; = (u
U

u
L
)x.
Consider an innitesimal rectangular circuit around the point x = x

## on the plate (gure 6.4).

There is no contribution to the circulation from the sides of the circuit piercing the plate, since
the plate is impermeable. If the sides parallel to the plate have length x, the contribution from
them is = (u
U
u
L
)x, where u
U
and u
L
are the horizontal components of velocity on the
upper and lower surfaces. Then
=
_
c
0
(u
U
u
L
) dx (6.22)
=
_
0

{u() u()}
c sin
2
d (6.23)
=
c
2
_

0
{u() u()} sin d. (6.24)
From (6.16) , the integrand is (Milne-Thomson 1973, p. 139)
{u() u()} sin = q

= q

= 2q

## sin {1 cos } (6.27)

so
= q

c sin
_

0
(1 cos ) d = q

c sin (6.28)
= q

= q
2

c sin (6.29)
C

1
2
q
2

c
= 2sin, (6.30)
as obtained in (6.14) from the jump in the complex potential around the plate.
6.1.7 Thin at plate as vortex sheet
One way of interpreting the results of 6.1.6 is that the circulation arises from a distribution of
circulation along the plate. Since circulation is associated with vortices, and we have amounts
Flat plate aerodynamics 61
0
1
2
3
4
0 0.2 0.4 0.6 0.8 1
V
O
R
T
E
X

S
T
R
E
N
G
T
H

D
I
S
T
R
I
B
U
T
I
O
N
,

/
2

q

s
i
n

## FRACTIONAL POSITION ALONG CHORD, x/c

Figure 6.5: The distribution of circulation along a thin at plate at arbitrary nonzero incidence.
of circulation
= cq

## sin(1 cos ) (6.31)

= 2q

sin
1 cos
sin
x (6.32)
= 2q

sin
1 cos
_
1 cos
2

x (6.33)
= 2q

sin
_
1 cos
1 + cos
x (6.34)
= 2q

sin
_
c
x
1 x (6.35)
along the plate, we might think of this as being due to a vortex at z = x of strength . This
vortex strength distribution is plotted in gure 6.5.
The vortex at

## would have the complex velocity (at some other point z )

w(z) =
2iq

sin
2(z z

)
_
c
x

1 x

(6.36)
or, since x = z on the plate, where all the vortices must be
w(z) =
iq

sin
(z z

)
_
c
z

1 z

(6.37)

e
i
, the total ow eld due to the free-stream and the vortex
62 AERODYNAMICS I COURSE NOTES, 2005
sheet along the plate then has complex velocity
w(z) = q

e
i
+
iq

sin

_
c
0
1
z z

_
c
z

1 dz

. (6.38)
With a change of variables to facilitate the integration, this would eventually get us back to a
representation of the velocity eld the same as (6.4); however, the details of that do not concern
us here. What is of interest is the concept that a thin cambered plate can be represented by a
vortex sheet.
6.2 Application of thin aerofoil theory to at plate
6.2.1 Thin aerofoil theory
For aerofoils typically in use, the camber and thickness are an order of magnitude smaller than
the chord. This separation of length scales is exploited in thin aerofoil theory. It is also assumed
in thin aerofoil theory that the incidence is small; i.e. the ight is more or less parallel to the
chord.
The basic idea of thin aerofoil theory is to model the ow over the aerofoil by adding a
uniform stream and a continuous distribution of vortices along the chord or camber line (these
two becoming equivalent in the thin aerofoil approximation).
The strength of the vortices are determined by:
the obvious requirement that there is no ow through the aerofoil; and
the more subtle KuttaJoukowsky condition, which stipulates that the ow leave the trailing
edge smoothly.
The lift on the aerofoil is then obtained from the KuttaJoukowsky theorem (4.48). The
circulation around the aerofoil is the integral of the strengths of the vortices distributed along it.
Thin aerofoil theory is a fundamental component of aerodynamics, and is treated extensively
in most books on the subject; e.g.
Glauert (1947, ch. 7);
Abbott and von Doenho (1959, ch. 4);
Milne-Thomson (1973, ch. 8);
McCormick (1995, pp. 7379);
Kuethe and Chow (1998, ch. 5);
Anderson (2001, ch. 4);
Bertin (2002, ch. 6);
Houghton and Carpenter (2003, ch. 4).
In 6.2, thin aerofoil theory is introduced by its application to the ow over a thin at plate.
Flat plate aerodynamics 63
6.2.2 Vortex sheet along the chord
If vortices are distributed with (yet to be determined) strength (z

) at z

aerofoil, 0 z

## c , the complex velocity at z is

w(z) = q

e
i
+
i
2
_
C
dz

z z

(6.39)
and along the chord is (noting that z = x + iy = x on the chord)
u(x) iv(x) = q

e
i
+
i
2
_
C
dx

x x

. (6.40)
Thus the normal component of velocity to the surface of the aerofoil (y = 0 ) is minus the
imaginary part;
v(x) = q

sin
1
2
_
c
0
dx

x x

, (6.41)
and the condition that there be no ow through the aerofoil is v(x) = 0 :
_
c
0
dx

x x

= 2q

sin. (6.42)
To be consistent with the other approximations of thin aerofoil theory, the small-angle approxi-
mation (6.15) should be applied; thus
_
c
0
dx

x x

= 2q

. (6.43)
6.2.3 Changing the variable of integration
The integral in (6.43) is fairly nasty and is more easily treated after the transformation to the
eccentric angle (6.7) with a similar transformation for x

to

## . The dierential in the integral

becomes
dx

=
c sin

2
, (6.44)
and (6.43) becomes
_

0
sin

cos cos

= 2q

. (6.45)
This is the basic integral equation of thin aerofoil theory, as applied to a at plate.
6.2.4 Glauerts integral
The integral in (6.45) is still nasty, but can be solved by reference to Glauerts integral (Glauert
1947, p. 93; Abbott and von Doenho 1959, p. 67; Milne-Thomson 1973, p. 141; Kuethe and
Chow 1998, p. 139; Anderson 2001, p. 302; Bertin 2002, p. 204)
_

0
cos n

cos cos

=
sinn
sin
, (6.46)
which holds for n = 0, 1, 2, . . . .
64 AERODYNAMICS I COURSE NOTES, 2005
Setting n = 0 and n = 1 in (6.46) gives
_

0
d

cos cos

= 0 , (6.47)
_

0
cos

cos cos

= . (6.48)
Thus, for any constant C ,
_

0
C + cos

cos cos

= . (6.49)
Comparing this with (6.45), we see that the solution for the distribution of vortex strength is
() = 2q

C + cos
sin
. (6.50)
6.2.5 The KuttaJoukowsky condition
At the trailing edge x = c , = 0 , and the vortex strength in (6.50) is innite unless C = 1 .
Therefore this special value of the constant is chosen. This is how the KuttaJoukowsky condition
enters the problem in this formulation.
With the condition, the vortex strength distribution is
() = 2q

1 cos
sin
, (6.51)
which is just as in (6.32), with the small-angle approximation (6.15).
6.2.6 Circulation and lift
It follows that the circulation, lift (per unit span), and two-dimensional lift coecient are
= cq

(6.52)
= cq
2

(6.53)
C

= 2. (6.54)
Again, just as in (6.14), with the small-angle approximation.
6.3 Aerodynamic moment
Up till now, we have mostly been concerned with the aerodynamic force on the aerofoil, but the
moment associated with the distribution of this force is important too.
Since the lift (per unit length) is given by
= q

(6.55)
= q

_
c
0
dx, (6.56)
we can think of
= q

x (6.57)
Flat plate aerodynamics 65
as the distribution of the lift along the aerofoil. Each element of lift contributes to the moment
about the leading edge in proportion to its distance from that edge:
m
l.e.
= x = q

xx, (6.58)
where the moment is reckoned positive when it tends to increase the pitch of the aerofoil; i.e. to
raise the leading edge and depress the trailing edge. Thus the pitching moment (per unit length)
is given by
m
l.e.
= q

_
c
0
x dx. (6.59)
For the at plate, using (6.51),
m
l.e.
= 2q
2

_
c
0
x
1 cos
sin
dx (6.60)
=
q
2

c
2
2
_

0
(1 cos )(1 + cos ) d (6.61)
=
q
2

c
2

4
. (6.62)
Dening the leading-edge pitching moment coecient as
C
m,l.e.

m
l.e.
1
2
q
2

c
2
, (6.63)
we have the result (Kuethe and Chow 1998, p. 142)
C
m,l.e.
=

2
=
C

4
. (6.64)
6.3.1 Centre of pressure and aerodynamic centre
The centre of pressure is the point through which the action of the resultant aerodynamic force
is equivalent to the total distribution of the aerodynamic force. If the lift is placed at a point x ,
x , (6.65)
and this balances the actual leading edge pitching moment if x = m
l.e.
,or
x
c
=
C
m,l.e.
C

. (6.66)
For the at plate this gives x =
c
4
; i.e. the centre of pressure is at the quarter-chord point. Note
that this result is independent of the incidence (Kuethe and Chow 1998, p. 142).