Degree Type


Date of Award


Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy


Mechanical Engineering


Mechanical Engineering

First Advisor

Ming-Chen Hsu


Typical wind turbine blade design procedures employ reduced-order models almost exclusively for early-stage design; high-fidelity, finite-element-based procedures are reserved for later design stages because they entail complex workflows, large volumes of data, and significant computational expense. Yet, high-fidelity structural analyses often provide design-governing feedback such as buckling load factors. Mitigation of the issues of workflow complexity, data volume, and computational expense would allow designers to utilize high-fidelity structural analysis feedback earlier, more easily, and more often in the design process. Thus, this work presents a blade analysis framework which employs isogeometric analysis (IGA), a simulation method that overcomes many of the aforementioned drawbacks associated with traditional finite element analysis (FEA). IGA directly utilizes the mathematical models generated by computer-aided design (CAD) software, requires less user interaction and no conversion of CAD geometries to finite element meshes, and tends to have superior per-degree-of-freedom accuracy compared to traditional FEA.

The presented framework employs the parametric capabilities of the Grasshopper algorithmic modeling interface developed for the CAD software Rhinoceros 3D. This Grasshopper-based framework enables seamless, iterative design and IGA of CAD-based geometries and is demonstrated through the optimization of both a pressurized tube and a simplified wind turbine blade design. Further, because engineering models, such as wind turbine blades, are typically composed of numerous surface patches, a novel patch coupling technique is presented. For the sake of straightforward implementation and flexibility, the coupling technique is based on a penalty energy approach. Formulations for the penalty parameters are proposed to eliminate the problem-dependent nature of the penalty method. This coupling methodology is successfully demonstrated using a number of multi-patch benchmark examples with both matching and non-matching interface discretizations.

Together, these technologies enable practical and efficient design and analysis of wind turbine blade shell structures. The presented IGA approach is employed to perform vibration, buckling, and nonlinear deformation analysis of the NREL/SNL 5 MW wind turbine blade, validating the effectiveness of the proposed approach for realistic, composite wind turbine blade designs. Further, a blade design framework that combines reduced-order aeroelastic analysis with the presented IGA methodologies is outlined. Aeroelastic analysis is used to efficiently provide dynamic kinematic data for a wide range of wind load cases, while IGA is used to perform high-fidelity buckling analysis. Finally, the value and feasibility of incorporating high-fidelity IGA feedback into optimization is demonstrated through optimization of the NREL/SNL 5 MW wind turbine blade. Alternative structural designs that have improved blade mass and material cost characteristics are identified, and IGA-based buckling analysis is shown to provide design-governing constraint information.


Copyright Owner

Austin Herrema



File Format


File Size

151 pages