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Chapter 8

Lift forces
Contents
8.1

Two-dimensional thin aerofoils . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 69

8.2

Kutta-Joukowski theorem . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 70

8.3

Lift produced by a spinning cylinder . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 70

8.4

Origin of circulation around a wing

8.5

Three-dimensional aerofoils . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 71

. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 71

How do aeroplanes fly? An Airbus A380 weights 560 tonnes (5.6 105 kg) at take-off and so
requires a lift force in excess of 5.6 106 N. The lift force is provided by the wings (span
80 m, area 845 m2 ) and is generated by aerodynamic forces.
In this section we shall give a brief discussion of the lift forces on aerofoils.

8.1

Two-dimensional thin aerofoils

Consider a 2-D flow past a thin aerofoil and assume that the flow does not separate and can
be modelled as a potential flow (i.e. aerofoil is smooth).
We can use Bernoullis theorem to calculate the pressure recall that there is no drag force
acting on a solid body placed in a potential flow.

pT

pB
For a flat aerofoil, the force in the upward vertical direction will be the difference between
pressure forces on the bottom and on the top of the aerofoil. This force per unit length is
Z
F = (pB pT ) dx.
pB
1
pT
1
+ u2B =
+ u2T ,

2
Z
Z

2
2
F =
(uT uB ) dx =
(uT + uB )(uT uB ) dx.
2
2

Using Bernoullis theorem,

69

70

8.2 Kutta-Joukowski theorem

For a thin aerofoil, both uT and uB will be close to U (the free stream velocity), so that
Z
I
u dl,
uT + uB ' 2U F ' U (uT uB ) dx = U
C

where C is the curve around the aerofoil.

C
Thus, the force acting on the aerofoil,
F = U

I
where

=
C

u dl,

is proportional to the circulation around the wing.

8.2

Kutta-Joukowski theorem

The above result is an example of a general exact general result of inviscid irrotational flow
theory.
Theorem 8.1 (Kutta-Joukowski)
Any 2-D body in relative motion to the ambient fluid with velocity U has a lift force, perpendicular to U, of magnitude
I
F = U where =
u dl.
(8.1)
C

8.3

For a flow around a flat plate, = U L sin


(using conformal mapping).
Nose up ( %) leads to more lift and nose down
( &) to less lift.

Lift produced by a spinning cylinder


a2

=U r+
cos +
,
r
2


a2
ur = U 1 2 cos ,
r



a2
U 1 + 2 sin .
u =
2r
r


Low velocity
High pressure
Flow direction

FL

Top spin

High velocity
Low pressure

Z 2

On r = a, ur = 0 and u =
2U sin ; the circulation is =
a u |r=a d.
2a
0
So,

2 


2
U
2
u r=a =
2U sin =
2
sin + 4U 2 sin2 .
2a
2a
a
The pressure at the cylinder surface can now be calculated using Bernoullis theorem,
1
2
U
p = p + U 2 2 2 +
sin 2U 2 sin2 .
2
8 a
a

71

Chapter 8 Lift forces


The pressure force per unit length
I
F=

p n dl =

Z
0

p n a d,

where

n=
er = cos
ex + sin
ey .

The force can be decomposed into its components parallel and perpendicular to the free stream
velocity (in the x direction): F = Fk
ex + F
ey , with Fk = 0 (no drag force) and the lift force
F = U (Kutta-Joukowski theorem). This is called the Magnus effect (e.g. football,
tennis, table tennis).

8.4

Origin of circulation around a wing

When the plane is stationary on the runway, there is no circulation around the wings. In
5.4, we showed that vorticity cannot be created in an initially vorticity free fluid, in the
absence of viscosity. Thus the flow should remain vortex free. (Recall that the circulation is
equal to the flux of vorticity.)
A potential flow past an inclined wing is of the form:

However, small viscous effects allow the aerofoil to shed a vortex off the trailing edge, so that
downstream separation occurs at the trailing edge.

This vortex, called the starting vortex, remains behind on the runway. Its circulation is equal
and opposite to the circulation around the wing.

Note: the greater the angle of inclination


(or attack angle), the greater the circulation and hence the lift (e.g. flat plate =
2U L sin ). This is true up to a point: if
the angle is too steep, the flow separates so the
drag force on the aeroplane increases significantly and it partially looses its lift force. This
is called a stall.

8.5

Three-dimensional aerofoils

No wings is infinitely long (i.e. 2-D). Special care needs to be taken with wings tips.

72

8.5 Three-dimensional aerofoils

pT
pB
Since pB > pT , there is a pressure gradient driving a flow around the edge of the wing. This
leads to a vortex from the edge of the wing.
Trailing vortex

Starting vortex

Trailing vortex

These trailing vortices are parts of a single vortex tube formed by the wings, the trailing
vortices and the starting vortex. (Vortex tubes must be closed as they cannot start or end in
an inviscid fluid.)