Publication Date


Document Type


Committee Members

John Bantle (Other), Haibo Dong (Committee Member), George Huang (Other), James Menart (Committee Member), Rolf Sondergaard (Committee Member), Mitch Wolff (Committee Chair)

Degree Name

Master of Science in Engineering (MSEgr)


Unsteady flow and its effects on the boundary layer of a low pressure turbine blade is complex in nature. The flow encountered in a low pressure turbine contains unstructured free-stream turbulence, as well as structured periodic perturbations caused by upstream vane row wake shedding. Researchers have shown that these conditions strongly influence turbine blade performance and boundary layer separation, especially at low Reynolds numbers. In order to simulate these realistic engine conditions and to study the effects of periodic unsteadiness, a moving bar wake generator has been designed and characterized for use in the Air Force Research Labs low speed wind tunnel. The layout is similar to other traditional squirrel cage designs, however, the entire wake generator is enclosed inside the wind tunnel, up-stream of a linear cascade. The wake shed from the wake generator was characterized by its momentum deficit, wake width, and peak velocity deficit. It is shown that the wakes produce a periodic unsteadiness that is consistent with other wake generator designs.

The effect of the periodic disturbances on turbine blade performance has been investigated at low Reynolds number using the highly loaded, AFRL designed L1A low pressure turbine profile. Wake loss measurements, pressure coefficient distribution, and particle image velocimetry was used to quantify the L1A blade performance with unsteady wakes at a Reynolds number of 25,000 with 0.5% and 3.4% free-stream turbulence. Wake loss data showed that the inclusion of periodic wakes reduced the profile losses by 56% compared to steady flow losses. Previous pressure coefficient distributions showed that the L1A blade profile, under steady flow conditions, has non-reattaching separated flow along the suction surface. With the inclusion of the periodic wakes, the pressure coefficient profile revealed that the flow separation had been dramatically reduced to a small separation bubble.

The wake passing event was split into six phases and captured using two-dimensional planer PIV. The interaction between the passing wakes and the separation bubble was noted. The bubble was observed to grow in size between passing wakes, but was only able to achieve a fraction of the original level of separation. The streamlines through the unrestricted blade passage were able to better follow the blade profile, indicating an improved exit flow angle with lower losses. The data shows that the wake generator was successfully implemented into the wind tunnel and is able to properly simulate blade row interactions.

Page Count


Department or Program

Department of Mechanical and Materials Engineering

Year Degree Awarded