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Harding Distinguished Postgraduate Scholars Programme


  Kailen Patel


  Engineering, Clare Hall

  PhD thesis: Understanding Transonic Flutter Instability in Aircraft Wings



Research interests:

  1. Transonic aerodynamics
  2. Aeroelasticity
  3. Physics-based low-order modelling
  4. Concept aircraft design

To decarbonise aviation, radically new aircraft designs such as the "Blended Wing Body" or "Truss-Braced Wing" are necessary. These designs require longer and lighter wings for better aerodynamic efficiency. However, these wings are more flexible and thus susceptible to an aeroelastic instability called flutter. Flutter occurs when the wing's vibration is excited by its surrounding aerodynamics, causing it to grow uncontrollably and leading to catastrophic failure. This must be avoided at all costs.
The cause of flutter is still poorly understood. The goal of my PhD is to understand the physical mechanisms driving flutter by studying how shockwaves on the wing interact with changes in 3D aerodynamics as the wing vibrates. With this understanding, I aim to propose new wing designs that can suppress instability and enable next-generation aircraft concepts to be realised.

Who or what inspired you to pursue your research interests?

I believe that aviation greatly benefits society through enabling different cultures, businesses, and people to remain connected across the globe. I was inspired by the opportunity to make an important impact towards enabling zero-carbon aviation and allowing future generations to continue flying.
I find flutter such a fascinating problem to investigate due to its multidisciplinary nature that encompasses aspects of aerodynamics, structural mechanics, and control engineering. The interaction between these fields often leads to surprising results, challenging us to question and improve our current understanding of the underlying physics. This unpredictable aspect of flutter is what I find so exciting.