Leading Edge Embedded Fan Airfoil Concept - New Powered High Lift Technology

Date of Award

January 2015

Degree Type


Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)


Mechanical and Aerospace Engineering


Thong Q. Dang


cross-flow fan, ESTOL, general aviation aircraft, powered high lift airfoil

Subject Categories



A new powered-lift airfoil concept called Leading Edge Embedded Fan (LEEF) is proposed for Extremely Short Take-Off and Landing (ESTOL) and Vertical Take-Off and Landing (VTOL) applications. The LEEF airfoil concept is a powered-lift airfoil concept capable of generating thrust and very high lift-coefficient at extreme angles-of attack (AoA). It is designed to activate only at the take-off and landing phases, similar to conventional flaps or slats, allowing the aircraft to operate efficiently at cruise in its conventional configuration.

The LEEF concept consists of placing a crossflow fan (CFF) along the leading-edge (LE) of the wing, and the housing is designed to alter the airfoil shape between take-off/landing and cruise configurations with ease. The unique rectangular cross section of the crossflow fan allows for its ease of integration into a conventional subsonic wing. This technology is developed for ESTOL aircraft applications and is most effectively applied to General Aviation (GA) aircraft. Another potential area of application for LEEF is tiltrotor aircraft. Unlike existing powered high-lift systems, the LEEF airfoil uses a local high-pressure air source from cross-flow fans, does not require ducting, and is able to be deployed using distributed electric power systems throughout the wing. In addition to distributed lift augmentation, the LEEF system can provide additional thrust during takeoff and landing operation to supplement the primary cruise propulsion system.

Two-dimensional (2D) and three-dimensional (3D) Computational Fluid Dynamics (CFD) simulations of a conventional airfoil/wing using the NACA 63-3-418 section, commonly used in GA, and a LEEF airfoil/wing embedded into the same airfoil section were carried out to evaluate the advantages of and the costs associated with implementing the LEEF concept. Computational results show that significant lift and augmented thrust are available during LEEF operation while requiring only moderate fan power input. The CFD results show that airfoil circulation control is achieved by the varying the CFF intake flow rate and the momentum of the CFF exhaust jet (e.g. through airfoil AoA or fan rotational speed). The presence of the CFF has the effect of moving the stagnation point on the airfoil pressure surface from the CFF airfoil LE region near the CFF to as far back as the airfoil trailing edge. At high AoA operation, LE flow separation on the airfoil suction surface is delayed by flow entrainment of the high-energy jet leaving the CFF. Detailed analysis of the flow field through the crossflow fan and its housing were carried out to understand its fluid-dynamics behavior, and it is found that the airfoil geometry acts as inlet guide vanes to the crossflow fan as the angle-of-attack is varied, thus introducing pre-swirl or co-swirl into the first stage of the crossflow fan. An experimental study of the LEEF concept confirmed that the concept works and it is robust. Finally, as application examples, the LEEF technology is applied to a Remote Control model and to a generic tiltrotor aircraft similar in characteristics to DARPA's Aerial Reconfigurable Embedded System. These aircraft configurations were analyzed using 2D and 3D CFD.


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