Numerical simulation of transitional flow on a wind turbine airfoil with RANS-based transition model

Ye Zhang, Zhengzhong Sun*, Alexander van Zuijlen, Gerard van Bussel

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticleScientificpeer-review

7 Citations (Scopus)


This paper presents a numerical investigation of transitional flow on the wind turbine airfoil DU91-W2-250 with chord-based Reynolds number Rec = 1.0 × 106. The Reynolds-averaged Navier–Stokes based transition model using laminar kinetic energy concept, namely the k − kL − ω model, is employed to resolve the boundary layer transition. Some ambiguities for this model are discussed and it is further implemented into OpenFOAM-2.1.1. The k − kL − ω model is first validated through the chosen wind turbine airfoil at the angle of attack (AoA) of 6.24° against wind tunnel measurement, where lift and drag coefficients, surface pressure distribution and transition location are compared. In order to reveal the transitional flow on the airfoil, the mean boundary layer profiles in three zones, namely the laminar, transitional and fully turbulent regimes, are investigated. Observation of flow at the transition location identifies the laminar separation bubble. The AoA effect on boundary layer transition over wind turbine airfoil is also studied. Increasing the AoA from −3° to 10°, the laminar separation bubble moves upstream and reduces in size, which is in close agreement with wind tunnel measurement.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)879-898
Number of pages20
JournalJournal of Turbulence
Issue number9
Publication statusPublished - 1 Jun 2017


  • Boundary layer transition
  • laminar kinetic energy
  • laminar separation bubble
  • RANS modelling
  • wind turbine aerodynamics


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