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Towards the next generation drag controlling mechanisms with smart skin technology S&T71

  • School: School of Science and Technology
  • Study mode(s): Full-time / Part-time
  • Starting: 2022
  • Funding: UK student / EU student (non-UK) / International student (non-EU) / Fully-funded


NTU's Fully-funded PhD Studentship Scheme 2022

Project ID: S&T71

Drag control impacts the fuel economy of transport systems. For a 40-tonne articulated truck travelling at 60 mph, 60% of the total horsepower (hence fuel) is consumed to overcome the aerodynamic drag (Browand, Adv. Transp. Workshop, 2005, pp. 10-11). For a Boeing 747 with a typical utilisation rate, a drag reduction of 1% saves fuel by 100,000 gallons per year (Anderson, Flight Oper. Eng., 2006). This is equivalent to ≈£200,000 saving of fuel cost in 2021.

The flow regime over most of the transport systems is turbulent. Therefore, several strategies have been proposed to reduce turbulent drag (riblets, vortex generators, super-hydrophobic surfaces). These strategies have performed promising in their applications to simple configurations (channel or pipe flow). However, little is known about their application to the transport systems (high-speed trains, UAVs). These systems consist of complex geometries such as curvature or sharp edges, which in turn trigger complex flow physics (acceleration, separation). These complex flows respond differently to the drag reducing mechanism.

This is a multidisciplinary research between the Department of Engineering and Physics and Mathematics. It will put a step forward in the flow control community by 1) developing a new drag reducing mechanism based on smart materials, and 2) exploring the aerodynamic response of the mechanism in its application to the ground and air transport systems. The drag reducing mechanism will implement the theory of dynamic wall oscillation (Ricco, Skote and Leschziner, Prog. Aerosp. Sci., 2021, vol. 123, pp. 100713). This mechanism has a complex yet interesting structure from manufacturing perspective. Additionally, early studies have demonstrated up to 40% drag reduction with this mechanism. We explore the aerodynamics of this mechanism using computational simulations and analytical approaches. The considered configurations will be a benchmark model for automotive industry and airfoil NACA0012. We employ state-of-the-art numerical simulation techniques for the aerodynamics study, namely large-eddy simulation (LES). Our study consists of investigation of flow physics, in addition to detecting the optimal parameter space for surface actuation.

The obtained information from aerodynamics study will be investigated from materials/manufacturing perspective. Specifically, we a) investigate the feasibility of the wall actuation mechanism, and b) design and fabricate the mechanism. For feasibility study, we employ non-linear finite element analysis (FEA). Then, design and fabrication will be launched through 4D printing of smart materials. This research is likely to fill a gap in the state-of-the-art of this problem and provide pertinent results that would be instrumental in the design of the next generation flow controlling devices.

School strategic research priority

This research is aligned with two strategic research themes at NTU. Drag reduction, hence fuel saving, is one of the objectives of Sustainable Futures. Additionally, design and fabrication of a smart skin structure for drag reduction is within the scope of Medical Technologies and Advanced Materials.

Entry qualifications

For the eligibility criteria, visit our studentship application page.

How to apply

For guidance and to make an application, please visit our studentship application page. The application deadline is Friday 14 January 2022.

Fees and funding

This is part of NTU's 2022 fully-funded PhD Studentship Scheme.

Guidance and support

Download our full applicant guidance notes for more information.

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