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Learning from humpback whales for improving the energy capturing performance of tidal turbine blades

Shi, Weichao and Atlar, Mehmet and Norman, Rosemary (2018) Learning from humpback whales for improving the energy capturing performance of tidal turbine blades. In: Trends and Challenges in Maritime Energy Management. WMU Studies in Maritime Affairs . Springer, Cham, pp. 479-497. ISBN 9783319745756

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This paper summarizes a project on the potential of further improving the performance of horizontal axis tidal turbines via the application of leading-edge tubercles to the turbine blades inspired by humpback whales. Within this framework, a wide variety of experimental investigations, supported by numerical studies, have been conducted. The study first focused on the design and optimisation of the leading-edge tubercles for a specific tidal turbine blade section by using numerical methods to propose an “optimum” design for the blade section. This optimum design was then applied onto a representative tidal turbine blade. This representative 3D blade demonstrated significant benefits, especially after stall. The experimental measurements were further validated and complimented by numerical simulations using commercial CFD software for the detailed flow analysis. Following that, three tidal turbine models with varying leading-edge profiles were manufactured and a model test campaign was conducted in the cavitation tunnel to evaluate their efficiency, cavitation, underwater noise, and detailed flow characteristics. Based on these experimental investigations it was confirmed that the leading-edge tubercles can improve the hydrodynamic performance in the low Tip Speed Ratio (TSR) region without lowering the maximum power coefficient; constrain the cavitation development to within the troughs between the tubercles; and, hence, mitigate the underwater noise levels.