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An Experimental and Theoretical Study of Active Flow Control


Hirsch, Damian George (2017) An Experimental and Theoretical Study of Active Flow Control. Dissertation (Ph.D.), California Institute of Technology. doi:10.7907/Z9N014KR.


The accelerating growth of environmental awareness has not stopped at the aerospace industry. The need for greener and more efficient airplanes threatens to outpace the flow of new technology. This has ignited development in several fields, one of which is active flow control (AFC). Active flow control has quickly proven its tremendous potential for real applications. Even though the roots of this technology date back a century, we still lack fundamental understanding. This thesis combines both modern and traditional approaches to lay out a new foundation for future research.

The thesis first focuses on the rising stars of active flow control: the so-called fluidic oscillators or sweeping jet actuators. These devices consist of simple, rigid internal geometries that create a sweeping output jet motion. The fluid dynamic interactions with the internal geometry are studied in detail using high-speed Schlieren imaging. Additionally, the influence of adjacent sweeping jets is investigated. It is revealed that the internal driving mechanism is far stronger than the fluid dynamic interactions at the outlet, resulting in a completely independent jet behavior.

Next, a high-lift airfoil design is combined with active flow control, and an extensive wind tunnel study is carried out. It is shown that for the given wing design active flow control leads to much higher lift benefits when applied to the trailing edge. Applied to the leading edge active flow control disrupts the vortex lift of the high-lift airfoil, resulting in a deleterious lift effect; however, it shows potential for pitch moment control. This project also underlines the advantages of jet-like active flow control over steady blowing actuation at limited available mass flow rates.

The momentum input coefficient as an important parameter in active flow control is discussed in detail, identifying common misconceptions and difficulties that hinder its proper calculation. An innovative, much simpler approach is introduced. This allows a detailed study of the underlying physics, unveiling unknown limitations of active flow control. The approach is then used as a model to derive the novel concept of thermal active flow control. Experimental studies, including a wind tunnel test campaign, are performed to confirm the viability of the concept for practical applications.

The new calculation method of the input momentum coefficient emphasizes its weakness as a similarity parameter in active flow control studies. The extended mass flow coefficient is introduced as a new parameter. It is shown that it can overcome the deficiencies of the input momentum coefficient without suffering other disadvantages. Its further investigation leads to a deeper understanding of active flow control, which is supported by PIV experiments. The main findings of this investigation divide active flow control into three different "states": boundary layer thickening, separation control, and supercirculation.

Item Type:Thesis (Dissertation (Ph.D.))
Subject Keywords:active flow control, AFC, sweeping jet, vertical tail, Lucas Wind Tunnel
Degree Grantor:California Institute of Technology
Division:Engineering and Applied Science
Major Option:Aeronautics
Awards:William F. Ballhaus Prize, 2017. Hans G. Hornung Prize, 2017.
Thesis Availability:Public (worldwide access)
Research Advisor(s):
  • Gharib, Morteza
Thesis Committee:
  • Shepherd, Joseph E. (chair)
  • Gharib, Morteza
  • Colonius, Tim
  • Hornung, Hans G.
  • Wygnanski, Israel J.
Defense Date:30 May 2017
Funding AgencyGrant Number
The Boeing CompanyUNSPECIFIED
Northrop Grumman CorporationUNSPECIFIED
Record Number:CaltechTHESIS:06092017-112408552
Persistent URL:
Related URLs:
URLURL TypeDescription VideoSchlieren of Sweeping Jet Actuator
Default Usage Policy:No commercial reproduction, distribution, display or performance rights in this work are provided.
ID Code:10332
Deposited By: Damian Hirsch
Deposited On:10 Jun 2017 00:12
Last Modified:25 Oct 2023 21:02

Thesis Files

PDF (Online Version, One-sided) - Final Version
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PDF (Print Version, Two-sided) - Final Version
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