Separated flow response to rapid flap deflection

Albert Medina, Maziar S. Hemati, Matthew Rockwood

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

9 Scopus citations


The transient response of a massively separated flow over an airfoil to rapid flap actuation is presented. A NACA 0006 airfoil is oriented at a fixed incidence of 20 deg for a Reynolds number of Re = 4 × 104. The experiments are performed in a water tunnel with a wing spanning the width of the test section to produce a nominally two-dimensional flowfield. The airfoil is bisected about the midchord position, resulting in a 50%-chord trailing-edge flap. The flap is rapidly deflected in a smoothed-ramp profile over a range of deflection speeds and amplitudes. The flap maneuver is completed in a fraction of a single convective time. Focus is given to a deflection amplitude of 2 deg to minimize geometric deviation from the nondeflected configuration. The desired response to such a flap motion is the evocation of vortical transients conducive to lift enhancement. Through this study, two distinct transient responses are observed that are directionally dependent on flap actuation. In motions resulting in an increase in airfoil camber, the lift is increased instantaneously to modest values before relaxation to a separated steady state. In effect, this mode expedites convergence to the steady-state value of the final airfoil configuration and is devoid of the “antilift” spike associated with the discrete actuation of conventional fluidic actuators. In motions resulting in a decrease in airfoil camber, the lift profile is characterized by an initial reduction before a surge in lift, culminating in a global peak and followed by relaxation. Both deflection modes prove disruptive to the leading-edge shear-layer dynamics through trailing-edge actuation and are cause for rollup of a leading-edge vortex. Ridges of the finite-time Lyapunov exponent field are used to determine that the net decrease in camber motion induces significant entrainment near the trailing edge, leading to a smaller recirculation region and reattachment of the flow above the suction surface trailing-edge region. The net increase in camber motion does not generate this entrainment, and therefore yields a significantly larger recirculation region.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)1446-1457
Number of pages12
JournalAIAA journal
Issue number4
StatePublished - 2020

Bibliographical note

Funding Information:
M. S. Hemati acknowledges support from the Air Force Office of Scientific Research (AFOSR) Grant No. FA9550-17-1-0252 and FA9550-19-1-0034. This work is motivated by objectives outlined by members of the AIAA FDTC Massively-Separtaed Flows Discussion Group including investigation of flow control opportunities in low Reynolds number flows for unsteady load mitigation.

Publisher Copyright:
© 2020, American Institute of Aeronautics and Astronautics Inc. All rights reserved.


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