High-lift airfoil separation with dielectric barrier discharge plasma actuation

Jesse Little, Mo Samimy

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

87 Scopus citations


The efficacy of a single dielectric barrier discharge plasma actuator for controlling turbulent boundary-layer separation from the deflected flap of a high-lift airfoil is investigated between Reynolds numbers of 240,000 (15 m/s) and 750,000 (45 m/s). Momentum coefficients for the dielectric barrier discharge plasma actuator are approximately an order of magnitude lower than those usually employed for such studies, yet control authority is still realized through amplification of natural vortex shedding from the flap shoulder, which promotes momentum transfer between the freestream and separated region. This increases dynamic loading on the flap and further organizes turbulent fluctuations in the wake. The measured lift enhancement is primarily due to upstream effects from increased circulation around the entire model, rather than full reattachment to the deflected flap surface. Lift enhancement via instability amplification is found to be relatively insensitive to changes in angle of attack, provided that the separation location and underlying dynamics do not change. The modulation waveform used to excite low-frequency perturbations with a high-frequency plasma-carrier signal has a considerable effect on the actuator performance. Control authority decreases with increasing Reynolds number and flap deflection, highlighting the necessity for further improvement of plasma actuators for use in realistic takeoff and landing transport aircraft applications. These findings are compared to studies on a similar high-lift platform using piezoelectric-driven zero-net-mass flux actuation.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)2884-2898
Number of pages15
JournalAIAA journal
Issue number12
StatePublished - Dec 2010

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Aerospace Engineering


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