Faculty Advisor

Prof. Hamid Johari

Faculty Advisor

Prof. Zhikun Hou

Faculty Advisor

Prof. David J. Olinger

Faculty Advisor

Prof. Peder C. Pedersen

Faculty Advisor

Dr. Thomas J. Gieseke

Faculty Advisor

Prof. Mikhail Dimentberg

Faculty Advisor

Prof. James C. Hermanson


The largely unstudied extension of ultrasonic circulation measurement techniques (UCMT) to determine instantaneous lift in unsteady and three-dimensional flows has been addressed in this work. A combined analytical-numerical-experimental approach was undertaken with the goal of developing methods to properly convert the measurable time-dependent bound circulation to instantaneous lift force in unsteady flows. The measurement of mean sectional lift distribution along structure spans in three-dimensional flows was also studied. An unsteady correction method for thin airfoils was developed analytically and validated numerically (with finite element solutions) to properly convert bound circulation to instantaneous lift based on unsteady potential flow theory. Results show that the unsteady correction method can provide increased accuracy for unsteady lift prediction over the Kutta-Joukowski method used in previous unsteady flow studies. The unsteady correction model generally should be included for instantaneous lift prediction as long as the bound circulation is time-dependent. Using the same framework, we also studied determination of instantaneous lift forces on stationary bluff bodies (circular cylinders) at low Reynolds number (Re=100). Various force models, including an approximate vortex force model, were studied. A new unsteady model, similar to that developed for the thin airfoils, using instantaneous bound circulation values, was proposed. Another important issue studied in this thesis is the effect of acoustic path sensitivity on bound circulation determination, which we found to be crucial for accurately predicting the instantaneous lift in both unsteady flat plate and cylinder flows. Proper path selection should take into account the location of boundary layers, attached and shed vortices. These findings will be useful in future experimental design of UCMT, PIV and LDV methods. Finally, we used the UCMT method to experimentally study the mean spatial lift distribution along structures. Low Reynolds number low aspect ratio (AR) wings that have application in micro-aerial-vehicles (MAV) were studied. The spanwise circulation (lift) distribution along the MAV wings exhibits a peak (maximum), and deviates from predictions of Prandtl's lifting line theory. Although only 'linear' lift (due to bound circulation) was measured, comparison with force balance results showed that reasonable integrated lift values on low Re, low AR wings can be obtained using UCMT.


Worcester Polytechnic Institute

Degree Name



Mechanical Engineering

Project Type


Date Accepted





Vortex, Unsteady, Circulation, Three-dimensional, Aerodynamics, Instantaneous Lift, Lift (Aerodynamics), Measurement, Unsteady flow (Aerodynamics)