This paper presents a numerical analysis of the flow physics behind the effects of leading-edge protuberances on airfoil performances at low Reynolds number with an aim to provide a solid foundation for the engineering applications in the near future. An improved delayed detached eddy simulation (IDDES) method based on a transition model was proposed and validated through comparisons with experimental results. Utilizing the IDDES scheme, together with vortex dynamic method, investigations were focused on the stall and post-stall regions, respectively. It was found that an interesting ‘bi-periodic’ phenomenon within stall region, i.e. converged and diverged vortical flow in adjacent trough sections of tubercles, was created with the complicated evolution of the generated streamwise counter-rotating vortex pairs, resulting in the degraded aerodynamic characteristics as well as rather gentle stall process. For the post-stall cases, the impaired flow detachment around both peak and trough sections of tubercles were responsible for the improved airfoil performance. In addition, two physical models within the two regions were also built to further clarify the flow physics in a general way.

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