Extension-Twist Coupling Optimization in Composite Rotor Blades
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For optimal rotor performance in a tiltrotor aircraft the difference in the inflow and the rotor speeds between the hover and cruise flight modes suggests different blade twist and chord distributions. The blade twist rates in current tiltrotor applications are defined based upon a compromise between the figure of merit in hover and propeller efficiency in airplane mode. However, when each operation mode is considered separately the optimum blade distributions are found to be considerably different. Passive blade twist control, which uses the inherent variation in centrifugal forces on a rotor blade to achieve optimum blade twist distributions in each flight mode through the use of extension-twist coupled composite rotor blades, has been considered for performance improvement of tiltrotor aircraft over the last two decades. The challenge for this concept is to achieve the desired twisting deformations in the rotor blade without altering the aeroelastic characteristics of the vehicle. A concept referred to as the sliding mass concept is proposed in this work in order to increase the twist change with rotor speed for a closed-cell composite rotor blade cross-section to practical levels for performance improvement in a tiltrotor aircraft. The concept is based on load path changes for the centrifugal forces by utilizing non-structural masses readily available on a conventional blade, such as the leading edge balancing mass. A multilevel optimization technique based on the simulated annealing method is applied to improve the performance of the XV15 tiltrotor aircraft. A cross-sectional analysis tool, VABS together with a multibody dynamics code, DYMORE are integrated into the optimization process. The optimization results revealed significant improvements in the power requirement in hover while preserving cruise efficiency. It is also shown that about 21% of the improvement is provided through the sliding mass concept pointing to the additional flexibility the concept provides for tailoring of the structure without any additional weight penalty on the system.