Vortex generators are utilized to control aircraft wing separation and certain functions in wind tunnels. These small, wedge-shaped tabs form vortices of air across the wings of an aircraft, and though vortex generators were initially used only on airline transport and military aircraft, they are commonly utilized in general aviation today. They are often installed on horizontal stabilizers along with the leading edges of the wings.
Aircraft featuring multiple engines benefit from vortex generators because they improve controllability at slower airspeeds, in addition to reducing stall speeds, that way slower approaches are possible. With a slower stall speed, the takeoff weight can be higher which improves the load. Meanwhile, vortex generators on single-engine aircraft lower stall speed and improve handling at those slower speeds.
Vortex generators work by sticking to the wing surface as air flows over an aircraft, and this generates lift. The airflow is separated from the upper surface of the wing when the critical angle of attack is surpassed, and this causes the wing to stall. Vortex generators create vortices, and these air swirls energize the air layer above the wings so that air can stay in the airfoil longer as the angle of attack grows. More specifically, these vortices mix free stream air with high energy into the lower energy boundary layer which permits the airflow in the boundary layer to hold up against the adverse pressure gradient for a longer period of time. Typically, vortex generators are used to control flow that has been separated already, rather than preventing wing separation, diffusers, or bends in channels moving at subsonic and supersonic speeds, saving wall length. For example, if the pressure recovery coefficient is 0.67 at subsonic speed, about 60 percent of the wall length has the potential to be saved.
There are a large number of different types of vortex generators, including the simple plow, shielded plow, triangular plow, scoop, twist interchanger, and many more. Moreover, forced mixing by using a vortex generator causes a general reduction in the pressure gradient, and fine scale mixing is much less effective than mixing on a coarse scale because you are using devices which are spaced far apart. As such, a single row of properly spaced devices is more effective than multiple rows.
The vortex generator increases the lift of the wing of an aircraft. The wedge-shaped type of vortex generator is used for turbulent mixing, boundary layer attenuation in between wedges, and discharge of the rest of the boundary layer to the general flow. They lengthen the linear area of the lift curve and increase the stalling incidence which increases the maximum wing lift of the aircraft. For example, the wedge creates a larger maximum lift than the wing-type vortex generator.
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