Modern ‘high-lift’ blade designs incorporated into the low pressure turbine (LPT) of aero-engines typically exhibit a separation bubble on the suction surface of the airfoil. The size of the bubble and the loss it generates is governed by the transition process in the separated shear layer. However, the wakes shed by the upstream blade rows, the turbulent fluctuations in the free-stream and the roughness over the blade complicates the transition process.

The current paper numerically investigates the transition of a separated shear layer over a flat plate with an elliptic leading edge using large eddy simulations (LES). The upper wall of the test section is inviscid and specifically contoured to impose a streamwise pressure distribution over the flat plate to simulate the suction surface of a LPT blade. The influences of free-stream turbulence (FST), periodic wake passing and streamwise pressure distribution (blade loading) are considered.

The simulations were carried out at a Reynolds number of 83,000 based on the length of the flat plate (S0 = 0.5m) and the velocity at the nominal trailing edge (UTE ∼ 2.55 m/s). A high turbulence intensity of 4% and a dimensionless wake passing frequency (fr = fwakeS0/UTE, where fwake is the dimensional wake frequency) of 0.84 is chosen for the study. Two different distributions representative of a ‘high-lift’ and an ‘ultra-high-lift’ turbine blade are examined. An in-house, high order, flow solver is used for the Large Eddy Simulations (LES). The Variational Multi-scale approach is used to account for the sub-grid scale stresses.

Results obtained from the current LES compare favorably with the extensive experimental data previously obtained for the test cases considered. The LES results are then used to further explore the flow physics involved in the transition process, in particular the role of Klebanoff streaks and their influence on performance. The additional effect of surface roughness of the blade has also been studied for one of the blade loadings. The benefit that roughness can offer for highly loaded turbine blades is demonstrated.

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