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The Flow About an Isolated Rotating Wheel Effects

of Yaw on Lift, Drag and Flow Structure


A. P. Mears, R. G. Dominy and D. B. Sims-Williams
School of Engineering,
University of Durham, U.K.
.

SYNOPSIS
The airflow about an isolated rotating wheel has been analysed. Experimental data
have been gathered in the form of surface pressure distributions on a pneumatic tyre
at yaw angles of 0 and 5. The Durham University radio telemetry system was used
to measure the surface pressure data and integral lift and drag forces have shown
that the lift force decreases and the drag force increases at yaw=5. Surface
pressure data provided considerable insight into the flow-field and Fackrells jetting
phenomenon was observed both before and after the line of contact between wheel
and road, although Fackrells experimental results did not show any jetting after the
line of contact. This prompts further investigation into this phenomenon.

NOTATION
Cp:
D:
P:
Po:
Ps:

Static Pressure Coefficient, where Cp =

P Ps
Po Ps

Wheel Diameter (m)


Local Static Pressure (Pa)
Free Stream Total Pressure (Pa)
Free Stream Static Pressure (Pa)
DV
Reynolds No.: Re =
, where symbols have the usual meanings

Vb:
Belt Velocity (Rolling Road) (m/s)
V :
Free Stream Velocity (m/s)
:
Angular Position (deg)

:
:
CL:
CD:

Angular Velocity (rad/s)


Yaw Angle (deg)
Lift Coefficient
Drag Coefficient

1. INTRODUCTION
The aerodynamic characteristics of rotating wheels have received growing attention
from investigators in the last few years. This attention has mainly focused on
numerical simulation of an isolated wheel, and a wheel located within a wheelhouse
cavity (Axon et al [1,2], Axon [3], Skea et al [4,5]). The experimental test case used
for model validation in both investigations was the work of Fackrell and Harvey [6,7].
The data presented by Fackrell and Harvey are extensive and give an enormous
insight into the aerodynamics of an isolated wheel both stationary and rotating. The
only limitation being that the data relate only to a wheel positioned parallel to the flow
(yaw = 0) and the external flow field study provided only an approximate indication
of the outline of the wake.
Previous research has shown that an exposed racing wheel generates positive lift
and drag for both stationary and rotating cases. It has been found that the lift and
drag forces decrease as a result of wheel rotation. For racing cars with exposed
wheels the wheel drag, as a percentage of the overall vehicle drag, can be between
35 and 50 percent (Dominy [8]).
A number of other authors have conducted studies into wheel aerodynamics but the
technical difficulties associated with the measurement of the aerodynamic
characteristics of wheels have usually allowed only a superficial analysis of the flowfield.
Morelli [9] showed that the wheel lift forces were negative which opposes all
subsequent studies, those results are more than likely due to a gap that existed
between the wheel and ground. He chose this configuration to enable a conventional
force balance to be used to measure both lift and drag forces. The gap under the
wheel was present to eliminate the wheeltoground reaction force since having
ground contact would have made it impossible to separate the aerodynamic lift force
from the varying wheeltoground reaction force. Consequently leaving a gap under
the wheel causes air to accelerate between the wheel and ground resulting in lower
pressure, and therefore helps to explain the negative lift force.
A racing wheel investigation was carried out by Stapleford and Carr [10] using a
complete racing car model. A similar approach was adopted to that of Morelli [9] in
terms of a force balance being used to directly measure the lift and drag forces.
Again, a gap existed between the wheel and ground although attempts were made to
seal the gap with strips of paper. Pressure distributions on the wheels surface were
measured using a static pressure probe. The results presented by Stapleford and
Carr did not show any of the special features of the flow field that Fackrell and
Harvey [6,7] observed, such as the jetting phenomenon (discussed later). Failure to
observe this flow feature was probably due to the experimental configuration used.

Possibly the most widely referenced investigation into the aerodynamics of isolated
wheels is the work of Fackrell and Harvey [6,7], which is described more thoroughly
in Fackrell [11]. The method Fackrell used to obtain the wheel lift and drag forces
was to measure the surface pressure distribution around the wheel and calculate the
forces by integration. The pressure data were acquired from the rotating wheel
through slip rings. This experimental technique allowed the wheel to rotate in contact
with the ground. The Reynolds number based on wheel diameter was 5.3x105. An
external flow field study gave an approximate indication of the outline of the wake.
Bearman et al [12] present further flow field measurements made on the wheel used
by Fackrell.
Cogotti [13] demonstrated that correct wheel to ground contact is of critical
importance by varying the gap between the wheel and ground. He observed a strong
negative pressure until the wheel contacted the ground where the pressure suddenly
became positive.
How the surface pressures on rotating wheels are affected when the wheel is
subjected to yawed flow is unclear and the authors are unaware of any published
surface pressure data with respect to yawed flow. Understanding the flow field about
rotating wheels and how yawed flow conditions affect the lift and drag forces is
important, perhaps more so in the case of racing cars where the magnitude of the
forces is proportionately higher than for passenger cars, and any underestimation of
the forces could have significant consequences.
The aims of this investigation were to measure static pressures on the surface of a
pneumatic tyre/wheel assembly and to use integration to calculate the lift and drag
forces. This was to be carried out at zero degrees yaw and with the wheel and rolling
road axes yawed five degrees relative to the wind tunnel, thus simulating cross-wind
conditions. The surface pressure distributions should give an insight into the flow field
around the wheel and help establish what mechanisms are responsible for any
changes in the lift and drag forces.
2. EXPERIMENTAL CONFIGURATION
2.1 Wind Tunnel Configuration
The Durham University low speed (0.855m x 0.55m) openjet wind tunnel with
moving ground plane (MGP), or rolling road, facility was chosen for this investigation
(see Fig. 1). This facility enables the wheel to rotate in contact with the rolling road
and has a working section area of 0.468m2. Both the free stream and rolling road
velocities were matched to simulate the wheel moving forward in still air.
To analyse an isolated wheel, the wheel was mounted from the side on a slender,
faired sting to provide minimum interference with the flow field. The sting was
securely located on the side of the rolling road and both the wheel and rolling road
axes could be yawed relative to the wind tunnel axis.

Wind Tunnel
V
Wheel
Moving Groundplane

Fig.1 Wind Tunnel Configuration


2.2 Pressure Instrumentation
The difficulty of separating the aerodynamic forces from the ground reaction forces
precludes conventional force balance measurements for lift. An alternative method is
to measure the pressure over the surface of the wheel and obtain the aerodynamic
forces by integration, although acquiring such pressure data from a rotating wheel is
technically difficult, especially if an aerodynamically non-intrusive approach is
required.
Durham University have designed and developed a uni-directional radio telemetry
system that allows surface pressure data to be transmitted from an isolated rotating
wheel to a local laboratory PC, where data acquisition is carried out. Fig.2 shows a
schematic representation of the overall instrumentation system.
The on-wheel telemetry briefly comprises of a Pressure Systems ESP-16HD
miniature pressure scanner, which consists of 16 silicon piezo-resistive pressure
transducers, each of which is selected sequentially. The analogue voltage output
from the scanner is converted to a digital signal using a 12-bit A/D converter and
read into a microcontroller. Data clocked into the microcontroller is synchronised to
an external clock pulse. The microcontroller sends the pressure data to the off-wheel
telemetry via a radio transmitter at a data transmission rate of 19.2kbps, this rate
being fixed by the baud rate of the microcontroller. The radio receiver on the offwheel telemetry receives the pressure data and this is clocked into the
microcontroller. The digital pressure data is then converted to an analogue voltage
using a 12-bit D/A converter, this is done to interface with the standard software of
the analogue data acquisition system.
A once-per-revolution wheel position pulse is provided by the reference trigger and
this is used at the data post-processing stage so that data can be grouped correctly
depending on wheel position.
The analogue voltages from the D/A converter and reference trigger are connected to
the analogue channels of the Amplicon PC30-PGH logging card, which has a clock
speed of 2MHz and allows logging of 8 12-bit differential channels.

ESP-16HD
Pressure Scanner
Transmitter

12-bit
A/D

Microcontroller

On-Wheel Telemetry

Local PC

Ref. Trigger

Data Valid Pin

Receiver

Microcontroller

Off-Wheel Telemetry

12-bit
D/A

4-bit Digital
Address Lines

Logging
Card

Fig.2 Schematic Representation of Overall Instrumentation System


The card also has digital input/output channels, which are used for the 4-bit digital
address information. Information relating to transducer number is also sent from the
on-wheel telemetry to the off-wheel telemetry, where the digital address lines are set
high or low accordingly. All data are logged at 1600Hz, which equates to pressure
data approximately every 4 degrees. However, the frequency at which pressure data
is transmitted via the telemetry is lower than 1600Hz at around 1200Hz. The problem
with this is that data from a previous angular position is logged at a subsequent
position and this affects the ensemble average. This effect is more pronounced at the
contact patch where the pressure changes rapidly and any lower pressure data from
a previous angular position (i.e. before the contact patch) reduces the magnitude of
the peak. To resolve this problem a data valid pin has been devised and is set high
by the off-wheel microcontroller on a rising edge of chip select (D/A), and this
indicates that the voltage has changed on the D/A converter. On the next rising edge
of chip select the pin is set low, again indicating that the voltage has changed. This
cycle continues high, low, high, etc. The data valid pin is logged and used at the data
reduction stage of post-processing. A rising or falling edge on the data valid channel
indicates valid data. The data are also corrected for the time lag between the angular
position where the pressure data were measured and the position at which the data
were acquired. Since the amplitude of the signal is not affected this is treated as a
simple transfer time lag. This is converted into an angular position offset since the
rotational frequency of the wheel is known and corrections are made during postprocessing.
2.3 Wheel/Tyre Design
A pneumatic tyre/wheel assembly was used for this investigation. The tyre chosen
was a standard racing go-kart front tyre, with a smooth tread area (slick racing tyre).
A pneumatic tyre was chosen to allow controlled deformation of the contact patch,
although for this investigation the tyre was effectively run as a solid. At a wind speed
of 15 m/s this equated to a wheel diameter based Reynolds number of 2.5x105. The
wheel/tyre assembly had a diameter of 247mm and a width of 130mm giving an

aspect ratio of 0.53. Blockage effects of less than 7% were deemed adequate for an
open-jet wind tunnel.
Flush surface pressure tappings (OD=1.24mm, ID=0.94mm), manufactured from
stainless steel hypodermic tubing, were located span-wise across one side of the tyre
(Fig. 3a) and down the sidewall (Fig. 3b). The reason the tappings had an angular
position offset (see Fig.3b), denoted in parentheses, was to enable easy tubing
connections since having the tappings all located in line with the centreline caused
the tubing to butt up against each other. This offset is dealt with at the postprocessing stage.

247m
-W/D

130mm

W/D=0

+W/D

=5
a) Tapping Location (Tread Region) b) Tapping Location (Sidewall)
and Yaw Angle Notation

c) Wheel/Tyre Assembly

d) Wheel/Tyre Assembly Inner Hub View

Fig.3 Wheel/Tyre Geometry and Pressure Tapping Locations


There was no need to install pressure tappings on both sides of the tyre since the
tyre was turned around onto the opposite side of the wheel after one side had been
logged. Figs.3c and 3d show the wheel/tyre assembly from the outer hub view and
inner hub view, respectively. A flat plate (Fig.3c) was used to eliminate any through
hub flow for this investigation, and Fig.3d clearly shows the cavity inside of the hub,
thus being more representative of a real wheel.
Further details of the wheel/tyre assembly are given in Mears et al [14].

3. RESULTS AND DISCUSSION


The data presented were obtained by computing the ensemble average from 32 sets
of 2048 measurements, this corresponding to around 700 wheel revolutions. All
results are therefore time-averaged over a around 700 wheel revolutions. The data
have been corrected for centrifugal effects on the pressure scanner (mechanical
effects) and the centrifugal pressure gradient that exists as a result of the different
radial positions of the transducer and the pressure tapping. To correct the pressure
data for the effects of the centrifugal pressure gradient the following correction
[equation (1)] was used (after Fackrell [11]). The lift and drag coefficients were
obtained using integration.
V
PS = PM +
2

rS 2 rM 2

r 2
O

(1)

where rM is the radius of the transducer,


rS is the radius of the pressure measuring hole,
rO is the maximum radius of the wheel,
PM is the measured pressure,
PS is the actual pressure at the pressure-measuring hole.
Table 1 shows the lift and drag coefficients for zero degrees yaw and five degrees
yaw compared with Fackrell [11]. Comparisons with the results of Fackrell are similar,
in terms of lift and drag coefficients and pressure distribution, although it must be
emphasised that the results were not expected to be the same since the
experimental configurations/geometry were different between the two sets of data,
both in terms of aspect ratio and edge profile. Fackrells wheel aspect ratio was 0.41
compared with 0.53 for the pneumatic tyre/wheel assembly. Edge profile geometry is
more difficult to quantify, in terms of a single numerical value, and it is thought that
the edge profile of the pneumatic tyre has similarities with both edge profiles 1 and 2
used by Fackrell.
Wheel/Tyre
Type

Reynolds
Number

Yaw Angle
(deg)

P1
P1
B2 [ref.11]

2.5x105
2.5x105
5.3x105

0
5
0

Spoke
Openness
(%)
0
0
-

CD

CL

0.56
0.59
0.58

0.42
0.35
0.44

Table.1 Lift and Drag Coefficients for Different Wheels/Configurations


A reduction in lift and an increase in drag were seen at yaw=5. The drag increase
agrees with the results presented by Cogotti [13] although he found that lift increased
in a similar way to drag. However, Cogottis results were based on a stationary wheel
so perhaps drawing any meaningful conclusions is difficult with respect to rotating
wheels where the flow-field is quite different.

3
2.5
Yaw=0
2
Yaw=5
1.5

Fackrell Yaw=0

1
0.5

Cp

0
0

90

180

270

360

-0.5
-1
-1.5

-2
-2.5

-3
-3.5
Angular Position (deg)

Vb

a) Centre line; Yaw = 0 and 5 degrees, c.f. Fackrell [11]


3
2.5
Yaw=0, w/D = +/-0.18
2

Yaw=5, w/D = 0.18


Yaw=5, w/D = -0.18

1.5
1
0.5

Cp

0
0

90

180

270

360

-0.5
-1
-1.5

-2
-2.5

-3
-3.5
Angular Position (deg)

Vb

b) Tapping 6; Yaw = 0 and 5 degrees


3
2.5
Yaw=0, w/D = +/- 0.27
2

Yaw=5, w/D = 0.27


Yaw=5, w/D = -0.27

1.5
1
0.5

Cp

0
0

90

180

270

360

-0.5
-1
-1.5

-2
-2.5
-3

-3.5
Angular Position (deg)

Vb

c) Tapping 9; Yaw = 0 and 5 degrees


Fig.4 Static Pressure Distributions for a Rotating Wheel

It is not intended to present all of the data gathered from these experiments, but to
focus on different regions of the wheel. Fig.4 shows static surface pressure
distributions, in terms of pressure coefficients, for the centreline, tread edge and the
sidewall of the wheel for both yaw angles (0 represents the front of the wheel facing
the direction of the flow).
Fig.4a shows that the results are very similar to Fackrell [11] for the zero yaw case.
At around 285 (i.e. before the top of the wheel) the flow separates from the surface
resulting in a much taller wake compared to that of a stationary wheel. At around
zero degrees the pressure reaches stagnation pressure for the zero degree yaw
case. This is not the case for the five degrees yaw case, which is expected since the
stagnation streamline would be nearer the windward side of the wheel. The pressure
is therefore lower at the centreline due to more cross flow at this location.
Probably the most interesting feature of this pressure distribution is the rapid rise in
pressure at the contact patch to Cp2.0. This is what Fackrell referred to as the
jetting phenomenon whereby work is done on the air as it is squeezed between the
rotating wheel and moving ground, hence pressures that are greater than the total
pressure in the working section. This rapid rise in pressure is accompanied by a
sudden fall in pressure just after the line of contact between the tyre and rolling road.
On close inspection it can be seen that Fackrells results do not show this, although
his two-dimensional theoretical prediction did show a positive pressure peak followed
by a negative pressure peak. His theoretical approach was based on the very small
region between the tyre and rolling road where the effects of viscosity dominate the
flow. It is reasonable to suggest that if a rapid increase to high pressure occurs
before the contact patch due to the moving boundaries converging together, then a
rapid decrease to low pressure should occur due to the divergence of the moving
boundaries resulting in negative pressure just behind the line of contact. Such strong
negative pressure could have a significant effect on the wake flow. A possible reason
why Fackrell did not observe this negative pressure peak in his experiments could be
due to the solid wheel that was used, and perhaps the correct line of contact was not
achieved between the tyre and road, although since he observed jetting before the
line of contact this may not be the case. The use of a pneumatic tyre could have
significant benefits if the correct line of contact is to be achieved. The oscillations
after the contact region are less easily explained and at this stage it is not known
whether this effect is an intrinsic feature associated with rotating wheels. Further
investigation is required to examine both the negative pressure peak and the
oscillations after the contact region to establish whether they are an inherent flow
feature, and to assess the applicability of Fackrells two-dimensional theoretical
solution to highly three-dimensional flows. Base pressure is fairly constant for all
traces.
Fig.4b shows the surface pressure distribution for the tread edge (w/D = +/- 0.18, see
Fig.3a for w/D details). At the front of the wheel (0<<70) the yaw=0 pressure
distribution is bounded by the windward and leeward distributions for the yaw=5
case. This is expected, as the pressure will be higher on the windward side of the
wheel compared to the leeward side where the flow is accelerating across the
surface of the wheel.

Yaw = 0

Yaw = 5
a) Tread Region

0.20

0.225

0.25

0.275

0.30

0.325

0.20

0.225

0.25

Theta/360

0.275
Theta/360

Yaw = 5

Yaw = 0
b) Close-up of the Contact Patch

0.25

0.30

0.35

0.40

0.45

0.50

0.55

0.60

0.30

0.35

0.40

0.45

0.50

0.55

0.60

0.65

Yaw = 0

0.25

Yaw = 5

0.65

Theta/360

c) Base Region
Fig.5 Contours of Constant Static Pressure

0.30

0.325

At the contact region the pressure distributions exhibit similar behaviour to those of
the centreline, although for the yaw=0 case the Cp has risen to approximately 2.6
and fallen to around Cp= -2.8, and therefore the tread edge of the wheel experiences
more jetting than the centreline of the wheel. This may be due to the edge profile and
how the air flow at the contact patch interacts with the accelerating air flow as it turns
around the corner of the wheel and down by the side of the wheel. If this were so
then it would explain the greater Cp values for the yaw=0 case at the edge of the
tread. The smaller rise in pressure on the windward side could also be explained in
this way as the air flows more across the wheel towards the leeward side and away
from the windward edge profile. The mechanism responsible for such behaviour is
unknown and does require further study.
Fig.4c shows the pressure distribution for the sidewall of the wheel. The graph shows
the yaw=0 and yaw=5, w/D= -0.27 (leeward) traces are almost contiguous. Both
show a small peak at approximately 90 suggesting that any rise in pressure across
the tread area has an effect on the sidewall as the flow moves downstream. The
windward side of the wheel (w/D = 0.27) does not show any signs of any pressure
rise and the pressure around the rear and top region of the wheel at this sidewall
location are higher.
Fig.5 shows contours of constant static pressure coefficient for a rotating wheel
relating to the tread region (Fig.5a), a close-up of the contact patch region (Fig.5b)
and the base region of the wheel (Fig.5c). Pressure data from all tappings were used
in these contour plots. The width of the contour plots have been increased in order to
improve clarity.
The yaw=0 plot (Fig.5a upper) has been mirrored about y/D = 0, since only one half
of the wheel was logged. The two plots in Fig.5a highlight the interesting region at the
contact patch and this is discussed later. The yaw=0 plot shows that low pressure
exists over most of the tread width between theta/360 = 0.6 to 0.85 compared to the
yaw=5 case where the low pressure is of similar magnitude but is limited to the
leeward side of the wheel. This would explain why the lift coefficient is reduced for he
yaw=5 case compared to that at yaw=0 but does not explain why it should be
limited to the leeward side of the wheel. Any positive pressure rise at the contact
patch, which would increase the lift force, is mitigated by the negative pressure peak
just after the line of contact. Highlighting the contact region (Fig.5b) shows that for
both cases where a positive pressure exists before the line of contact a negative
peak exists afterwards (yaw=0: y/D=+/- 0.05, theta/360=0.24 high pressure; y/D=+/0.05, theta/360=0.275 low pressure, and yaw=5: y/D= -0.025, theta/360=0.24 high
pressure; y/D= -0.025, theta/360=0.275 low pressure). Fig. 5c shows the base region
and this reveals that the base pressure is lower for the yaw=5 case, which will
contribute towards the higher drag (yaw=5: y/D= -0.1, theta/360= 0.5). The plot also
shows that where a negative pressure peak exists it seems to have an effect on the
flow field further around the wheel towards the rear of the wheel and therefore may
not be localised to the contact patch.

4. CONCLUSIONS
Surface static pressures have been measured on a rotating, isolated pneumatic
tyre/wheel assembly at yaw=0 and yaw=5. Integral lift and drag coefficients have
shown that the lift force decreased and the drag force increased at yaw=5. The
pressure distributions and static pressure contour plots highlighted the reasons for
such changes in the forces.
A strong positive pressure peak was observed at the contact patch and this agrees
with Fackrells jetting phenomenon. A subsequent negative pressure peak was
observed after the line of contact between the tyre and road, which Fackrell did not
observe experimentally. However, his two-dimensional theoretical prediction
predicted that such a strong negative peak should exist in this region. This prompts
further investigation into such phenomenon.
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