Performance optimisation of wind turbine blades with advanced composite textile skins

Performance optimisation of wind turbine blades with advanced composite textile skins

Supervisor: Dr Marco Vezza (

Description: This project will investigate, numerically and experimentally, the optimisation of aerofoil sections with flexible, advanced composite skins, applied to lightweight Horizontal Axis Wind Turbines. Development of morphing blades, with performance levels tolerant to a degree of skin distortion and other imperfections, is currently a major development area for the wind turbine industry. The project will be concerned with optimisation of aerofoil design for performance with application to a new, lightweight, actively-controlled, textile-covered wind turbine blade concept that has previously received previous seed funding from Innovate UK, with participation by two of the partners in the project. The investigations will focus on the aerofoil shape and the blade trailing-edge behaviour. These are both aspects that will be influenced by the behaviour of the textile skin under aerodynamic load. A significant factor in the design of a wind turbine blade is the aerodynamic performance of the blade section shape. It is assumed normally that there is no significant distortion of the profile under loaded conditions. While this is reasonable for a conventionally manufactured blade, a textile skin will have a tendency to deform slightly, leading to suboptimal performance. This element of the work package will involve the development, by theoretical and computational means, of aerofoil sections that are tolerant of profile deformity. This will require the development of computational models for fluid-structure interaction to calculate the skin surface deformation and compute the subsequent change in the flow. The analysis will use CFD and finite element packages available at the university. A critical part of an aerofoil section is the trailing-edge region, as wind turbine sections tend to be rear loaded. The structural thickness in the trailing-edge is small, however, and a crucial part of the structural response to the aerodynamic load will depend upon how the textile tension is maintained in the trailing-edge region. Therefore, a simple 2-D aerofoil simulation is insufficient, but a 3D structural and fluid dynamics calculation of a segment of the blade span will have to be performed. Computations will be augmented by experimental tests, where wind tunnel models will be supplied and adapted to conduct tests to provide validation data for the calculations. These tests will provide spanwise drag, lift and surface deformation measurements.

The project will be managed by Dr Marco Vezza and Dr Richard Green, senior members of staff in the Division of Aerospace Sciences at the University of Glasgow, and supported by Dr Matthew Stickland from the University of Strathclyde. The project will make use of the National Wind Tunnel Facility (NWTF) at the University of Glasgow, one of a UK-wide network of strategic wind tunnels, which has benefited from a £1.6M upgrade, funded jointly by the EPSRC and UK Aerodynamics. CFD and structural analysis software is available within partner universities, and includes access to STAR-CCM+, ABAQUS and OpenFoam.

Funding notes: The stipend will cover home tuition fees and provide a stipend of £14,553 per annum for 3.5 years. 

How to Apply: Application for this scholarship is made by using the online system at the following link for admission as a postgraduate research student to the admission team in the Recruitment and International Office:

For an informal discussion or for further information on this project, potential applicants are strongly encouraged to contact:

Dr Marco Vezza, Aerospace Sciences Research Division, University of Glasgow, tel: 0141 330 4107, e-mail:

Deadline: 30 November 2017

This opportunity has a funding determined start date. In the event a good enthusiastic candidate is identified, we may feel it appropriate to offer this funded position prior to the above closing date, therefore early applications are encouraged.

Start Date: January 2018