Aerodynamic Flow Control

Maximizing efficiency through aerodynamic flow control is key to achieving the next generation of performance improvements in aircraft. The Aerospace Research Center team is leading advancements in this new field of air transportation research, from fundamental to applied projects.

Small improvements, big gains

A student adjusts an experimental airplane engine test rig.

Aerodynamic flow control comprises a range of optimizations related to aircraft engines, structures, maneuverability and more. Improvements can be realized by utilizing either passive or active methods. Strategic application of flow control will lead to more capable and maneuverable aircraft that are also more efficient due to reduced fuel burn and emissions.

Researchers at ARC are recognized globally for their expertise in utilizing modest energy inputs that enable significant performance improvements in aircraft through natural flow synergies. The large team of researchers is making landmark discoveries in both passive and active flow control that are already being implemented by partners in government and industry.

Current initiatives:

  • Jet noise reduction
  • Maneuverability
  • Safety and preventive planning
  • Shortened take-offs and landings
  • Stall control
  • Wings/aerodynamics
  • High efficiency jet engines
  • Augmented turbine cooling efficiency

Flow actuators, fundamental devices that may be retrofitted on an air vehicle or integrated into aircraft design, are used to actively manipulate airflow in a variety of situations.

Aerodynamic flow actuators developed and used by ARC experts include:

  • Localized arc filament plasma actuators (LAFPA)
  • NS-pulsed dielectric barrier discharge (DBD) plasma actuators
  • AC-DBD plasma actuators
  • Fluidic oscillators (also known as sweeping jet actuators)
  • Pulsed and steady blowing
  • Synthetic jet actuators
  • Boundary layer suction
  • Blowing for vorticity generation (sometimes called vortex generator jets or VGJs)

Innovating efficiency

ARC researchers have distinguished themselves as experts not only in a variety of flow control methods, but also in a range of flow and flight speeds, from subsonic to supersonic. Their ongoing collaborative work is expected to result in significant cost savings and ultimately revolutionize the aircraft industry through integrated aerodynamic control and propulsion enabling radical new flight vehicle designs through flow control.

Collaborate with us! Reach out to Jeffrey Bons to discuss ideas and opportunities.

"Being a career Air Force officer, I was beyond impressed by the professionalism and aptitude of the faculty, staff and students at the ARC where I was surrounded by world-class researchers in a family-like environment. My time at the ARC helped prepare me for an immediate teaching position at a well-respected post-graduate military institute."
– Michael Walker, '18, PhD Aerospace Engineering, Assistant Professor of Aerospace Engineering at The Air Force Institute of Technology

Patented device to control fluid flow

aerodynamic actuator flow
ARC researchers regularly develop new technologies used across the globe to enhance the efficiency of aircraft. This localized arc filament plasma actuator for noise mitigation and mixing enhancement is one significant example.

Key publication: free shear layers


aerodynamic shear example

Contributing to the knowledge base of aerospace research is a priority at ARC. Recent work demonstrating the similarity of instability processes and development of large-scale structures in free shear layers, regardless of the Mach or Reynolds numbers, was highlighted in the AIAA Journal.

Key publication: active flow control for low-pressure turbines


aerodynamic turbine flow

Recent applications of active flow control to the low-pressure turbine section of a gas turbine are reviewed and evaluated in this AIAA Journal paper, along with unique aspects of the low pressure turbine flow environment.