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On the role and challenges of CFD in the aerospace industry

  • P. R. Spalart (a1) and V. Venkatakrishnan (a1) (a2)

This article examines the increasingly crucial role played by Computational Fluid Dynamics (CFD) in the analysis, design, certification, and support of aerospace products. The status of CFD is described, and we identify opportunities for CFD to have a more substantial impact. The challenges facing CFD are also discussed, primarily in terms of numerical solution, computing power, and physical modelling. We believe the community must find a balance between enthusiasm and rigor. Besides becoming faster and more affordable by exploiting higher computing power, CFD needs to become more reliable, more reproducible across users, and better understood and integrated with other disciplines and engineering processes. Uncertainty quantification is universally considered as a major goal, but will be slow to take hold. The prospects are good for steady problems with Reynolds-Averaged Navier-Stokes (RANS) turbulence modelling to be solved accurately and without user intervention within a decade – even for very complex geometries, provided technologies, such as solution adaptation are matured for large three-dimensional problems. On the other hand, current projections for supercomputers show a future rate of growth only half of the rate enjoyed from the 1990s to 2013; true exaflop performance is not close. This will delay pure Large-Eddy Simulation (LES) for aerospace applications with their high Reynolds numbers, but hybrid RANS-LES approaches have great potential. Our expectations for a breakthrough in turbulence, whether within traditional modelling or LES, are low and as a result off-design flow physics including separation will continue to pose a substantial challenge, as will laminar-turbulent transition. We also advocate for much improved user interfaces, providing instant access to rich numerical and physical information as well as warnings over solution quality, and thus naturally training the user.

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The Aeronautical Journal
  • ISSN: 0001-9240
  • EISSN: 2059-6464
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