The ability of a morphing blade to change its geometry according to the different operating conditions represents a challenging approach for the optimization of turbomachinery performance. In this paper experimental and CFD numerical analyses on a morphing blade for a heavy-duty automotive cooling axial fan are proposed.
Starting from the experimental results proposed in the first part of this work, a morphing blade, made of Shape Memory Alloy (SMA) strips embedded in a polymeric structure, was thoroughly tested. In order to assess the ability of the strips to reach a progressive and smooth shape changing evolution, several experiments were performed in a purpose-built wind tunnel. The morphing blade changed its shape as the strips were thermally activated by means of air stream flow. The bending deformation evolution with the increasing number of thermal cycles was evaluated by digital image analysis techniques.
After the analyses in the wind tunnel CFD numerical simulations of a partially shrouded fan composed of five morphing blades were performed in order to highlight the evolution of the fan performance according to air temperature conditions. In particular, the capability of the blade activation was evaluated by the comparison between the fan performance with non-activated blades and with activated blades.
The results show a progressive stabilization of the shape memory behavior after the first cycle. The blade deformation led to a significant improvement in fan performance at a constant rotational velocity. The CFD numerical simulation points out the differences in the overall performance and of three-dimensional fluid dynamic behavior of the fan.
This innovative concept is aimed at realizing a sensorless smart fan control, permitting (i) an energy saving that leads to fuel saving in the automotive application fields and (ii) an increase in engine life thanks to a strong relationship between the engine thermal request and the cooling fan performance.