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Western Michigan University

Mechanical and Aeronautical Engineering Department

Simulation of Airflow around SunSeeker Solar Car Using FLUENT


By Hui Son REU Research Assistant Mechanical Engineering Johns Hopkins University, Baltimore, MD

William W. Liou, Ph.D. Mechanical Engineering Western Michigan University, Kalamazoo, MI

Technical Report Number MAE-03-02

July 2003

Acknowledgements and Disclaimer:


This project was funded in part by the National Science Foundation (NSF) and the Department of Defense (DoD) Research Experiences for Undergraduates (REU) program (Grant # 0243608). Hui Son is an REU participant on this project. The continuing support of Western Michigan University is greatly appreciated. Thanks to Dr. Daniel Kujawski for the opportunity to participate within the REU program and to Dr. William W. Liou for his helpful information and guidance throughout the project. Also thanks to Kevin Braat and the SunSeeker solar car team for their assistance. Oversight of anyones work is unintentional, and sincerely regretted. This material is based upon work supported by the National Science Foundation under Grant No. 0243608. Any opinions, findings, and conclusions or recommendations expressed in this material are those of the author(s) and do not necessarily reflect the views of the National Science Foundation.

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Abstract
Computational fluid dynamics (CFD) software, such as FLUENT, allows engineers to run tests and simulations of fluid systems on a computer before actual tests are made. These simulations can give the engineer a general idea of how the system behaves. Also, the computer simulations can narrow down the areas required for testing. This can greatly reduce the number of physical tests required, saving money and time. CFD can be used to model a variety of situations. In this paper, Western Michigan Universitys solar car, the SunSeeker, is modeled in FLUENT to determine the drag on its geometry. The results of this model help in flow visualization and predicting flow characteristics around the car body. Hopefully, these results can be used to minimize drag on future designs. KEYWORDS: CFD, FLUENT, SunSeeker, Flow Around Cylinder, Flow Around Airfoil

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Table of Contents Acknowledgements:........................................................................................................................ ii Abstract .......................................................................................................................................... iii List of Figures ................................................................................................................................. v List of Tables ................................................................................................................................. vi List of Symbols ............................................................................................................................. vii Symbol Description .......................................................................................................... vii 1.0 Introduction............................................................................................................................... 8 2.0 Validity Tests ............................................................................................................................ 8 2.1 Cylinder test .......................................................................................................................... 8 2.1.1 Results and analysis ....................................................................................................... 9 2.2 NACA 0012 airfoil tests ..................................................................................................... 14 2.2.1 Results and analysis ..................................................................................................... 15 3.0 SunSeeker ............................................................................................................................... 19 3.1 SunSeeker model setup ....................................................................................................... 21 3.2 Results of SunSeeker model ............................................................................................... 22 4.0 Conclusions............................................................................................................................. 25 References..................................................................................................................................... 26

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List of Figures
Figure 1. Cylinder mesh.................................................................................................................. 9 Figure 2. Scaled residuals for Re = 10 cylinder flow ................................................................... 10 Figure 3. Velocity field for Re = 10 cylinder flow ....................................................................... 10 Figure 4. Boundary layer profiles for Re = 10 cylinder flow ....................................................... 11 Figure 5. Pressure field for Re = 10 cylinder flow ....................................................................... 11 Figure 6. Drag coefficient vs. Re for flow past a circular cylinder [5]......................................... 12 Figure 7. Vortex shedding at Re = 140 [6] ................................................................................... 13 Figure 8. Velocity magnitudes for vortex shedding at Re = 140 from FLUENT......................... 13 Figure 9. Lift coefficient vs. time for Re = 140 vortex shedding ................................................. 14 Figure 10. Airfoil mesh................................................................................................................. 15 Figure 11. Stream functions for 0 angle of attack ....................................................................... 15 Figure 12. Velocity for 0 angle of attack .................................................................................... 16 Figure 13. Pressure distribution for 0 angle of attack ................................................................. 16 Figure 14. Stream functions for 3 angle of attack ....................................................................... 16 Figure 15. Velocity for 3 angle of attack .................................................................................... 17 Figure 16. Pressure distribution for 3 angle of attack ................................................................. 17 Figure 17. Stream functions for 6 angle of attack ....................................................................... 17 Figure 18. Velocity for 6 angle of attack .................................................................................... 18 Figure 19. Pressure distribution for 6 angle of attack ................................................................. 18 Figure 20. Comparison of airfoil results from equation 3 and FLUENT ..................................... 19 Figure 21. Front view of SunSeeker ............................................................................................. 20 Figure 22. Side view of SunSeeker............................................................................................... 20 Figure 23. Top view of SunSeeker ............................................................................................... 20 Figure 24. Final meshed SunSeeker.............................................................................................. 21 Figure 25. Wind-tunnel design ..................................................................................................... 21 Figure 26. Tetrahedral cells along midsection of wind-tunnel ..................................................... 22 Figure 27. Pressure contours along top surface of SunSeeker...................................................... 23 Figure 28. Pressure contours along bottom surface of SunSeeker................................................ 23 Figure 29. Pathlines around car .................................................................................................... 24 Figure 30. Comparison of drag coefficient of SunSeeker compared to predicted values [7] ....... 24

List of Tables
Table 1. Parameters for cylinder tests............................................................................................. 9 Table 2. Drag coefficient for cylinder from FLUENT ................................................................. 12 Table 3. Parameters for airfoil tests .............................................................................................. 14 Table 4. Lift coefficients from FLUENT...................................................................................... 19 Table 5. SunSeeker model parameters.......................................................................................... 22 Table 6. Mesh fineness test........................................................................................................... 23

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List of Symbols
Symbol A CD CL FD FL Symbol Description Area Drag Coefficient Lift Coefficient Drag Force Lift Force Angle of Attack Density

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1.0 Introduction
Prototyping and model testing the aerodynamics and response to fluid immersion of a system is a critical step in many design projects. This not only applies to mechanical systems like automobiles and airplanes, but also structures such as bridges and towers need to be tested for effects such as harmful resonance. However, building models and facilities to test them can be an expensive and time-consuming process. Testing numerous situations with different parameters is usually required to obtain a general trend for the response of a system. This can mean several different models and various setups for each one. Obviously this can lead to a large number of costly tests. Steadily increasing processing power at an ever-decreasing price has made the use of computers an effective means for testing. As long as the basic equations governing the system are known, a computer can obtain approximate solutions numerically. Different methods exist for obtaining numerical solutions for several types of problems. The finite-difference method is used in most computational fluid dynamics (CFD) programs. As convenient and effective as computers are, they are not yet at the point where they can completely replace physical testing [1]. However, computer simulations can give a general idea of the response of a system and reduce the number of real tests that are required. This paper goes through the process of using a CFD program, FLUENT [2], to simulate airflow around Western Michigan Universitys solar car, the SunSeeker. Similar methods for simulation have already been shown to be useful and highly effective [1,3]. Two sets of tests were conducted on FLUENT to determine the validity of the software: flow around a circular cylinder and flow around a NACA 0012 airfoil. Both of these cases were run as 2-dimensional setups to save time without a significant loss in accuracy. Finally, the 3D model of the SunSeeker, donated by the SunSeeker team, was integrated into a mesh file acceptable for FLUENT and run through the simulation program.

2.0 Validity Tests


To test the accuracy and validity of FLUENT, a few simulations were run before the SunSeeker was modeled. The first set of tests involved flow of water around a circular cylinder. The second set of tests involved airflow around a NACA 0012 airfoil.

2.1 Cylinder test


Flow around a circular cylinder was tested because many experimental and analytical solutions for it exist. Three tests were run at three different Reynolds numbers: 10, 26, and 140. The simulations used water as the operating fluid. Fixed parameters were the diameter of the cylinder and the properties of the fluid. The variable parameter was the free-stream velocity (Table 1).

Table 1. Parameters for cylinder tests Reynolds Number Diameter (m) Density (kg/m3) Viscosity (kg/m-s) Freestream Velocity (m/s) 10 0.00001 998.2 0.001003 1 26 0.00001 998.2 0.001003 2.6 140 0.00001 998.2 0.001003 14.07

The mesh used for the tests was created in GAMBIT [4]. The flow entered from the left side. 21,142 triangular cells were used to mesh a .0003m x .00015m section of flow (Fig. 1). The mesh was made large enough so that the fluid could flow with negligible effects due to the wall. The longer section of mesh to the right of the cylinder was included to allow the wake to form properly without impedances. A 2-dimensional mesh was used because the flow was assumed to be relatively consistent along the third dimension. The center of the cylinder was placed .0001m from the left edge of the mesh. Figure 1 shows that the mesh was more refined near the cylinder. This was because most of the changes occur near the cylinder.

Figure 1. Cylinder mesh

The top and bottom boundaries of the mesh were set as lines of symmetry to contain the flow without introducing viscous effects. The left boundary was set as a uniform inlet flow and the right boundary was set as an outflow.

2.1.1 Results and analysis


Note: Results from the Re = 10 test will be used to show general properties of flow around a cylinder.

After inputting the mesh and the conditions of the flow, FLUENT iterated until the solution converged. The scaled residuals show how close FLUENT is to converging; the lower the residuals, the closer it is to convergence. Since a numerical approach can only approximate, but never give an exact solution, a limit for convergence was set. Figure 2 is an example of typical residual convergence. It shows that for Re = 10 the residual criterion was set to 10-4 resulting in 1600 iterations.

Figure 2. Scaled residuals for Re = 10 cylinder flow

The velocity vectors (Fig. 3) show that the flow speed increases above and below the cylinder where the water is squeezed into a smaller area and decreases near the cylinder due to viscous effects as expected [5].

Figure 3. Velocity field for Re = 10 cylinder flow

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Looking closer at the area around the cylinder (Fig. 4), the boundary layer effect is apparent. The velocity approaches zero at the wall of the cylinder due to viscous effects; this is the cause of the friction component of the drag force.

Figure 4. Boundary layer profiles for Re = 10 cylinder flow

The pressure field (Fig. 5) shows that a low-pressure region is generated behind the cylinder. This creates the pressure component of the drag force.

Figure 5. Pressure field for Re = 10 cylinder flow

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These properties were, in general, common among the three cases. The drag coefficient given by equation 1 was calculated by FLUENT for all three cases and is summarized in table 2. CD = FD 1 V 2 A 2 (1)

FD was the drag force, was the density of water, V was the free-stream velocity, and A was the characteristic area. In this case, A was calculated as the diameter of the cylinder multiplied by a unit depth of 1 m. Figure 6 shows that the calculated drag coefficients are in good agreement with experimental results.
Table 2. Drag coefficient for cylinder from FLUENT Re 10 26 140 Drag Coefficient 2.9169 2.0523 1.2464

Figure 6. Drag coefficient vs. Re for flow past a circular cylinder [5]

In the case of Re 140, vortex shedding is known to occur (Fig. 7). To determine if FLUENT could predict vortex shedding, the top and bottom walls of the mesh were changed to an outflow boundary so that the flow was no longer constrained and the flow was solved as an unsteady situation. Figure 8 shows that FLUENT was able to predict vortex shedding reasonably well.

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Figure 7. Vortex shedding at Re = 140 [6]

Figure 8. Velocity magnitudes for vortex shedding at Re = 140 from FLUENT

Vortex shedding is known to cause periodic oscillations in lift and drag. For the Re = 140 vortex shedding case, the predicted period of the wake oscillation is around 4.4 x 10-6 s [7]. Measuring the time between two peaks in a plot of the lift coefficient versus time (Fig. 9), a period of 5.3 x 10-6 s was obtained from FLUENT. The period from FLUENT is around 20% higher compared to the predicted value. This is reasonable given the complex nature of unsteady flow.

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Figure 9. Lift coefficient vs. time for Re = 140 vortex shedding

2.2 NACA 0012 airfoil tests


The second validity test consisted of airflow over a symmetric NACA 0012 airfoil at three different angles of attack: 0, 3, and 6. A Reynolds number of around 8 million was desired. The size of the airfoil was kept constant, but since the air was treated as an ideal gas, properties such as density and viscosity were dependent on flow speed (Table 3). Free-stream pressure was set to standard atmospheric pressure.
Table 3. Parameters for airfoil tests Angle of attack (degrees) Chord (m) Density (kg/m3) Viscosity (kg/m-s) Mach Number 0 1 1.17667 1.7894 x 10^-5 0.37 3 6 1 1 1.17667 1.17667 1.7894 x 10^-5 1.7894 x 10^-5 0.37 0.37

The mesh used for the airfoil tests was downloaded [8]. The flow inlet surface was in the shape of a parabola so that the angle of attack could be changed without changing the mesh (Fig 10).

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Figure 10. Airfoil mesh

As Figure 10 shows, the mesh is again more refined near the surface of the object. The parabolic shape of the left side of the mesh allows the direction of the flow to be changed so that different angles of attack can be simulated without changing the nature of the flow.

2.2.1 Results and analysis


The mesh was run through FLUENT for the three different cases. Around 700 to 800 iterations were required for solutions to sufficiently converge. Figures 11-13 show the results for the 0 angle of attack test.

Figure 11. Stream functions for 0 angle of attack

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Figure 12. Velocity for 0 angle of attack

Figure 13. Pressure distribution for 0 angle of attack

As was expected, the flow around the symmetric airfoil was also symmetric about the horizontal axis. Figure 12 shows that the air was slowed down at the front and back tips of the airfoil, but sped up as it traveled along the top and bottom surfaces. Figure 13 shows that there is no pressure difference between the top and bottom of the airfoil, but the pressure did drop at both surfaces. Figures 14-16 show the results for the 3 angle of attack test and Figures 17-19 show the results for the 6 angle of attack test.

Figure 14. Stream functions for 3 angle of attack

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Figure 15. Velocity for 3 angle of attack

Figure 16. Pressure distribution for 3 angle of attack

Figure 17. Stream functions for 6 angle of attack

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Figure 18. Velocity for 6 angle of attack

Figure 19. Pressure distribution for 6 angle of attack

The results of the 3 and 6 tests show that when the airfoil is tilted up, air moves along the top surface faster than at the bottom. This causes a difference in pressure with the high pressure region on the bottom surface, hence lift is generated. The lift coefficient given by equation 2 was calculated by FLUENT for the three cases and is summarized in table 4. CL = FL 1 V 2 A 2 (2)

In this case, FL is the force perpendicular to the flow and A is the maximum projected area: chord length multiplied by a unit depth of 1m. Predicted values for the lift coefficient of a NACA 0012 airfoil is given by equation 3 where is the angle of attack [6]. C L = .11 deg 1 (3)

Plotting this line against the data given by FLUENT (Fig. 20), it is clear the results from FLUENT are a close match. 18

Table 4. Lift coefficients from FLUENT Angle of attack (degrees) 0 0 Lift coefficient 3 0.348 6 0.687

Lift Coefficient vs. Angle of Attack


1 0.8 Lift coefficient 0.6 0.4 0.2 0 -2 -0.2 Angle of attack (degrees)
Figure 20. Comparison of airfoil results from equation 3 and FLUENT

Predicted Values FLUENT Data

3.0 SunSeeker
The results of the cylinder and airfoil tests indicated that FLUENT is able to produce reasonably accurate approximations of various types of flow. After validating the effectiveness of FLUENT, the final step was to model the SunSeeker solar car. As seen in figs. 21 through 23, Western Michigans solar car, the SunSeeker, is essentially a low profile airfoil. Deviations and protrusions on the body were necessary for components such as the canopy and wheel fairings. The canopy for the driver is roughly the shape of a teardrop, which creates relatively low drag. The fairings that cover the wheels are streamlined and aerodynamic to reduce the detrimental effects caused by an exposed wheel. The overall length of the car is around 5 meters.

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Figure 21. Front view of SunSeeker

Figure 22. Side view of SunSeeker

Figure 23. Top view of SunSeeker

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3.1 SunSeeker model setup


The computer model, donated by the SunSeeker team, was in IGES format. It was unnecessarily complex for the needs of this project and was read as corrupt by GAMBIT when import was first attempted. The vertices of the car geometry were correctly imported, but the faces and edges of the wire-frame model were corrupted. To solve this problem, all the faces and edges of the car geometry were erased leaving just the base vertices. These vertices were then cleaned up one at a time to produce a much more simple model, yet still maintained the overall shape and features of the car. The final meshed car (fig. 24) was then incorporated into a 20.72 m x 10.36 m x 20.72 m cube to produce a volume simulating a wind-tunnel test (fig. 25).

Figure 24. Final meshed SunSeeker

Figure 25. Wind-tunnel design

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Note that the final simplified mesh of the SunSeeker does not have wheels. Given the rather small amount of exposed area produced by the wheels (fig. 22), it was assumed that the effect of the wheels on the flow would be negligible. The final volume mesh was generated using tetrahedral cells. Figure 26 shows the solid cells along a plane that goes through the center of the car. The cells closer to the car were much finer than the cells further out. This was necessary to catch the finer details and changes in the flow that happen near the wall of the object, as was shown in the cylinder and airfoil tests.

Figure 26. Tetrahedral cells along midsection of wind-tunnel

3.2 Results of SunSeeker model


The SunSeeker model was run through FLUENT as a steady case with the parameters in table 5.
Table 5. SunSeeker model parameters Overall Length (m) Frontal Area (m2) Flow Speed (m/s) Density (kg/m3) Viscosity (kg/m-s) 4.9 1.15916 22.35 1.225 1.7894 x 10^-5

The operating fluid was set as air at standard conditions with the properties above. A flow speed of 22.35 m/s (50 mph) was given as the typical cruising speed for a solar racecar. This speed was low enough so that the air could be treated as an incompressible fluid. To determine an appropriate level detail for the mesh, three different meshes were run through FLUENT. Their properties are summarized in table 6. 22

Table 6. Mesh fineness test Number of Cells (in Iterations for thousands) convergence Drag coefficient 50 79 0.23248936 100 115 0.23345421 300 238 0.22529472

The drag coefficients were calculated by FLUENT using equation 1, where A is the frontal area of the car. From table 6, the difference in drag coefficients between using 50 thousand cells and 300 thousand cells is only 3.6%. This seems to indicate that a 50 thousand cell mesh is accurate enough for most uses. Figures 27 and 28 show the pressure distribution along the surface of the car. As was expected, high pressure regions formed at the front with low pressure regions appearing around the center of the car.

Figure 27. Pressure contours along top surface of SunSeeker

Figure 28. Pressure contours along bottom surface of SunSeeker

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The streamlined geometry of the car is apparent from the pathlines that interact with the surface (fig. 29).

Figure 29. Pathlines around car

Comparing the drag coefficient of the SunSeeker calculated from FLUENT with the historical trend for car body aerodynamics (fig. 30), it is clear that the SunSeeker is far more efficient in terms of drag than predicted. This is probably due to the fact that the chart in fig. 30 is a trend line for drag among commercially available automobiles and the SunSeeker was built more for low drag performance than practicality.

Figure 30. Comparison of drag coefficient of SunSeeker compared to predicted values [7]

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4.0 Conclusions
Overall, the simulations run through FLUENT were quite successful. To summarize: 1. FLUENT is able to predict fluid forces on various types of objects reasonably well. 2. FLUENT can give a good approximation of flow behavior and shape for several types of cases. 3. The results FLUENT can produce are well worth the time and effort required to model the geometry. 4. FLUENT can be very useful for pre-prototyping experiments.

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References
[1] Sawley, M L & Byrde, O & Cobut, D. Parallel Incompressible Flow Simulations: from Chemical Mixers to Solar Racing Cars, http://sic.epfl.ch/SA/publications/SCR96/scr8page24.html#[12 [2] FLUENT 5[computer program]. Lebanon, NH: Fluent Inc., 2003. [3] Yeung, S & DeWolf, M. 500 Newtons Less Negative Lift Helps Solar Car Finish Second in Sunrayce 99, http://www.fluent.com/solutions/articles/ja104.pdf [4] GAMBIT 1[computer program]. Lebanon, NH: Fluent Inc., 2003. [5] Fox, R W & McDonald, A T. Introduction to Fluid Mechanics John Wiley & Sons, Inc., 1998. [6] Anderson, J D. Fundamentals of Aerodynamics McGraw-Hill, 2001. [7] Liou, W W & Chen, K. Wake-Generated Unsteady Flow Calculations in Low Pressure Turbine Cascades Using Chimera Grids; p. 6-8. [8] Tung, K L; Computational Fluid Dynamics and Heat and Mass Transfer, http://che.cycu.edu.tw/mphl/Courses/Cfd/CFD-5Reports.htm [9] Munson, B R & Young, D F & Okiishi, T H. Fundamentals of Fluid Mechanics John Wiley & Sons, Inc., 1998. [10] Lee, H S. Tutorial II for Laboratory Project #1 (ME439 Design of Thermal Systems). [11] Pao, R H F. Fluid Dynamics The Tan Chiang Book Co., 1973.

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