The actuator-disk method is a cost-effective simulation tool that implicitly represents the rotor of a turbomachine using a blade-element approach combined with 2D airfoil coefficient input data. Actuator-disk models further rely upon empirical coefficient corrections to modify the 2D input data to better mimic physical blade aerodynamic characteristics. However, the fabrication of high-fidelity, general-purpose corrections remains a formidable challenge, so the limits of actuator-disk model accuracy have never been rigorously tested and remain uncertain. This is especially the case for low-pressure axial flow fan models, given the relative lack of empirical corrections conceived specifically for fan rotor simulation. In this study, benchmark performance limits of the actuator-disk method for axial flow fan analysis are explored. The limits of the modeling approach are interrogated by simulating actuator-disk fan models embedded with accurate physical blade data derived from explicit 3D fan model computations. It is subsequently shown that even with a near-precise coefficient description, the method remains unreliable. However, using an unconventional actuator-disk model formulation that is based directly on 3D blade force inputs, it is demonstrated that the accuracy of conventional models can be noticeably enhanced if the input coefficient data is artificially manipulated. This non-physical tuning of the input coefficient data is required to compensate for the simplified flow fields produced by the reduced-order modeling approach. The needed coefficient adjustments, referred to as modeling corrections, are subsequently defined and explained alongside the presentation of new realistic performance targets for future actuator-disk fan model variants.

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