Summary
An airfoil (American English) or aerofoil (British English) is a streamlined body that is capable of generating significantly more lift than drag. Wings, sails and propeller blades are examples of airfoils. Foils of similar function designed with water as the working fluid are called hydrofoils. When oriented at a suitable angle, a solid body moving through a fluid deflects the oncoming fluid (for fixed-wing aircraft, a downward force), resulting in a force on the airfoil in the direction opposite to the deflection. This force is known as aerodynamic force and can be resolved into two components: lift (perpendicular to the remote freestream velocity) and drag (parallel to the freestream velocity). The lift on an airfoil is primarily the result of its angle of attack. Most foil shapes require a positive angle of attack to generate lift, but cambered airfoils can generate lift at zero angle of attack. Airfoils can be designed for use at different speeds by modifying their geometry: those for subsonic flight generally have a rounded leading edge, while those designed for supersonic flight tend to be slimmer with a sharp leading edge. All have a sharp trailing edge. The air deflected by a aerofoil causes the airfoil to generate behind a lower-pressure "shadow" above and behind itself. This pressure difference is accompanied by a velocity difference, via Bernoulli's principle, so the resulting flowfield about the airfoil has a higher average velocity on the upper surface than on the lower surface. In some situations (e.g. inviscid potential flow) the lift force can be related directly to the average top/bottom velocity difference without computing the pressure by using the concept of circulation and the Kutta–Joukowski theorem. The wings and stabilizers of fixed-wing aircraft, as well as helicopter rotor blades, are built with airfoil-shaped cross sections. Airfoils are also found in propellers, fans, compressors and turbines.
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