Date of Award

Spring 1-1-2017

Document Type


Degree Name

Master of Science (MS)


Aerospace Engineering Sciences

First Advisor

John Farnsworth

Second Advisor

Lakshmi Kantha

Third Advisor

John Evans


Cycloidal Rotors have been studied for over 100 years, with a focus on applications for vertical axis wind turbines (VAWTs) for energy production and vertical-take-off-and-landing (VTOL) vehicles. Although, numerous experimental and analytical studies have demonstrated their potential competency compared to conventional horizontal-axis rotors, it is not until recently that the focus of these studies has shifted towards understanding the fundamental science behind how these complex systems function. The present study extends the existing fundamental knowledge about cycloidal rotors by particularly focusing on the unsteady aerodynamic phenomena associated with a single-fixed NACA 0012 blade cycloidal rotor as the system translates across an advance ratio (μ=U∞⁄ωR ) of 1. This phenomena was studied both experimentally, making use of particle image velocimetry (PIV) measurements on the system, and computationally, making use of both simple analytical tools and two-dimensional Unsteady Reynolds-Averaged Navier Stokes computational fluid dynamics (URANS-CFD) simulations. It is important to study the transition of the system through μ = 1 in order to better understand the incapability of VAWTs to self-start, and also the progression of VTOL vehicles into forward flight. When the advance ratio is less than one the blade cuts through its own wake. As it approaches one the local airspeed of the flow over the airfoil approaches zero during the retreating portion of the cycle. Finally, as the advance ratio increases beyond one the airfoil will experience reversed flow relative to its direction of rotation. The analysis of the PIV results show that the flow just downstream of the rotor is similar for cases at the same advance ratios, and that the wake structures do not depend upon the Reynolds number, within the range investigated. The phase-history velocity contour plots of the wake structure show a distinct cycloidal pattern for the advance ratio of μ = 1.25, a more stationary wake pattern for μ = 1, and a retarding wake pattern for μ = 0.75. CFD analysis using three different turbulence models showed that an asymmetric wake was generated behind the rotor with a more complex structure (both inside and outside the rotor diameter). This asymmetric wake generation is attributed to the difference in flow conditions at the advancing and retreating sides of the cycle. The complex structures account for the occurrence of dynamic stall, shedding of wake from the trailing edge, flow reversal on the airfoil in the cycle, and the wake-blade interaction. Also, it is observed that a region of high velocity is generated by the airfoil as it sweeps through the flow, which interacts with the airfoil at a later point in the cycle and affects the net force on the airfoil. It was seen that the blade-vortex interaction is not a characteristic property of the cycloidal rotor system. Rather, it depends on the advance ratio at which the system operates.