Date of Award


Degree Name

MS in Mechanical Engineering


Mechanical Engineering


College of Engineering


Russell Westphal

Advisor Department

Mechanical Engineering

Advisor College

College of Engineering


The primary motivation for this work was to predict the conditions that would yield minimum drag for a small Ram-Air Turbine used to provide a specified power requirement for a small flight test instrument called the Boundary Layer Data System. Actuator Disk Theory was used to provide an analytical model for this work.

Classic Actuator Disk Theory (CADT) or Froude’s Momentum Theory was initially established for quasi-one-dimensional flows and inviscid fluids to predict the power output, drag, and efficiency of energy-extracting devices as a function of wake and freestream velocities using the laws of Conservations of Mass, Momentum, and Energy. Because swirl and losses due to the effects of viscosity have real and significant impacts on existing turbines, there is a strong motivation to develop models which can provide generalized results about the performance of an energy-extractor, such as a turbine, with the inclusion of these effects. A model with swirl and a model with losses due to the effects of viscosity were incorporated into CADT which yielded equations that predicted the performance of an energy-extractor for both un-ducted and ducted cases. In both of these models, for this application, additional performance parameters were analyzed including the drag, drag coefficient, power output, power coefficient, force coefficient, and relative efficiency.

For the un-ducted CADT, it is well known that the wake-to-freestream velocity ratio of 1/3 will give the maximum power extraction efficiency of 59.3%; this result is called the Betz limit. However, the present analysis shows that reduced drag for a desired power extraction will occur for wake-to-freestream velocity ratios higher than the value of 1/3 which results in maximum power extraction efficiency. This in turn means that a turbine with a larger area than the smallest possible turbine for a specified power extraction will actually experience a lower drag.

The model with the inclusion of swirl made use of the Moment of Momentum Theorem applied to a single-rotor actuator disk with no stators, in addition to the laws of Conservation of Mass, Momentum, and Energy from the CADT. The results from the model w/swirl showed that drag remains unchanged while power extracted decreases with the addition of swirl, with swirl effects becoming more severe for tip speed ratios below about 5. As for CADT, reduced drag for a specified power extraction can be achieved when the wake-to-freestream velocity ratio is higher that than which provides maximum power extraction efficiency. The model w/losses due to viscosity incorporated the losses into the Conservation of Energy relationship. The results from the model w/losses showed that there is a distinct wake-to-freestream velocity ratio at which minimum drag for a specified power output is achieved, and that this velocity ratio is usually—but not always—higher than that for which the power extraction efficiency is a maximum.

It was concluded that a lower drag for a specified power output of an energy-extractor can usually be achieved at a wake-to-freestream velocity ratio higher than that which produces the v maximum power extraction efficiency. The latter condition, known as the Betz limit for CADT, and which defines the minimum size for a turbine to provide a specified power extraction, is therefore not the correct target design condition to achieve lowest drag for a small Ram-Air Turbine to power BLDS.