Aeroelastic-aerodynamic analysis and bio-inspired flow sensor design for boundary layer velocity profiles of wind turbine blades with active external flaps

Xiao Sun, Junliang Tao, Jiale Li, Qingli Dai, Xiong Yu

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

3 Scopus citations


The characteristics of boundary layers have significant effects on the aerodynamic forces and vibration of the wind turbine blade. The incorporation of active trailing edge flaps (ATEF) into wind turbine blades has been proven as an effective control approach for alleviation of load and vibration. This paper is aimed at investigating the effects of external trailing edge flaps on the flow pattern and velocity distribution within a boundary layer of a NREL 5MW reference wind turbine, as well as designing a new type of velocity sensors for future validation measurements. An aeroelastic-aerodynamic simulation with FAST-AeroDyn code was conducted on the entire wind turbine structure and the modifications were made on turbine blade sections with ATEF. The results of aeroelastic-aerodynamic simulations were combined with the results of two-dimensional computational fluid dynamic simulations. From these, the velocity profile of the boundary layer as well as the thickness variation with time under the influence of a simplified load case was calculated for four different blade-flap combinations (without flap, with -5°, 0°, and +5° flap). In conjunction with the computational modeling of the characteristics of boundary layers, a bio-inspired hair flow sensor was designed for sensing the boundary flow field surrounding the turbine blades, which ultimately aims to provide real time data to design the control scheme of the flap structure. The sensor element design and performance were analyzed using both theoretical model and finite element method. A prototype sensor element with desired bio-mimicry responses was fabricated and validated, which will be further refined for integration with the turbine blade structures.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)311-328
Number of pages18
JournalSmart Structures and Systems
Issue number3
StatePublished - Sep 2017
Externally publishedYes


  • Active external trailing edge flap
  • Aerodynamic
  • Aeroelastic
  • Boundary layer
  • Hair flow sensor
  • Wind turbine

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Control and Systems Engineering
  • Computer Science Applications
  • Electrical and Electronic Engineering


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