Comments Off on


Engineers frequently face the challenge of maintaining control of air flow around an object across a wide range of conditions. After all, wind turbines and airplanes don’t always get to choose the perfect weather. To widen their operating ranges, designers can use active flow control to keep air flowing around an airfoil instead of separating and causing stall. One method of flow control uses plasma actuators on the upper surface of an airfoil. When activated, the plasma actuator ionizes air near the wing surface, producing the purplish glow seen above. That ionized air, or plasma, gets accelerated by the electric field of the device. The acceleration adds momentum to air near the wing surface, which helps it stay attached and flowing smoothly despite the unfavorable pressure conditions near the trailing edge of the wing. Compared to other methods of active flow control, plasma actuation is relatively simple to implement and so is actively being researched for applications in aviation and wind energy. (Image credit: N. Fine et al., source; M. Debiasi et al.