Recently the leading-edge tubercles on the pectoral fins of humpback whales have attracted the attention of researchers who wish to exploit this feature in the design of turbine blades to improve the blade performance. The main objective of this paper is therefore to make a further investigation into this biomimetic design inspiration through a fundamental research study involving a hydrofoil section, which represents a straightened tidal turbine blade, with and without the leading-edge tubercles, using computational and experimental methods.
Firstly a computational study was conducted to optimise the design of the leading-edge tubercles by using commercial CFD code, ANSYS-CFX. Based on this study the optimum tubercle configuration for a tidal turbine blade with S814 foil cross-section was obtained and investigated further. A 3D hydrofoil model, which represented a “straightened” tidal turbine blade, was manufactured and tested in the Emerson Cavitation Tunnel of Newcastle University to investigate the effect of various tubercle options on the lift and drag characteristics of the hydrofoil. The experiments involved taking force measurements using a 3-component balance device and flow visualisation using a Particle Image Velocimetry (PIV) system. These tests revealed that the leading-edge tubercles may have significant benefits on the hydrodynamic performance of the hydrofoil in terms of an improved lift-to-drag ratio performance as well as reducing the tip vortex which is main cause of the undesirable end-effect of 3D foils. The study explores further potential benefits of the application of leading-edge tubercles on tidal turbine blades.