This paper contributes to the investigations into the feasibility of improving the performance of a marine current turbine using a biomimetic concept inspired from the leading-edge tubercles on the flippers of humpback whales. An experimental test campaign was recently conducted in the Emerson Cavitation Tunnel at Newcastle University and details of this test campaign together with the findings are summarised in the paper.
A set of tidal turbines with different leading-edge profiles was manufactured and tested to evaluate the hydrodynamic performance. Various tests were conducted at different flow speed and different pitch angle settings of the turbine blades. The results showed that the models with the leading-edge tubercles had higher power coefficients at lower tip speed ratios (TSRs) and at lower pitch angle settings where the turbine blades were working under stall conditions. Therefore, the tubercles can reduce the turbines' cut-in speed to improve the starting performance. The biomimetic concept did not compromise the maximum power coefficient value of the turbine, being comparable to the device without the tubercles, but shifted the distribution of the coefficient over the range of the tip speed ratios tested.