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Multi-objective optimization of the airfoil shape of Wells turbine used for wave energy conversion

Mohamed, M.H., Janiga, G., Pap, E., Thévenin, D.
Energy 2011 v.36 no.1 pp. 438-446
air flow, algorithms, energy conversion, equipment design, equipment performance, oceans, turbines, water power, water waves
Wells turbine is one of the technical systems allowing an efficient use of the power contained in oceans’ and seas’ waves with a relatively low investment level. It converts the pneumatic power of the air stream induced by an Oscillating Water Column into mechanical energy. The standard Wells turbines show several well-known disadvantages: low tangential force, leading to low power output from the turbine; high undesired axial force; usually a low aerodynamic efficiency and a limited range of operation due to stall. In the present work an optimization process is employed in order to increase the tangential force induced by a monoplane Wells turbine using symmetric airfoil blades. The automatic optimization procedure is carried out by coupling an in-house optimization library (OPAL (OPtimization ALgorithms)) with an industrial CFD (Computational Fluid Dynamics) code (ANSYS-Fluent). This multi-objective optimization relying on Evolutionary Algorithms takes into account both tangential force coefficient and turbine efficiency. Detailed comparisons are finally presented between the optimal design and the classical Wells turbine using symmetric airfoils, demonstrating the superiority of the proposed solution. The optimization of the airfoil shape leads to a considerably increased power output (average relative gain of +11.3%) and simultaneously to an increase of efficiency (+1%) throughout the full operating range.