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Useful Plasma for Aerodynamic control

Tags: Air

State of the Art - Background

Active and passive actuators are currently studied, but some could be considered extremely difficult to integrate into the aircraft structure, either because they require complex kinematics or large amounts of power. There is also an inherent de-phasing, a time difference between the execution command and obtaining the desired effect with active actuators. Plasma actuators require only a limited amount of electrical energy. They have no de-phasing and so can be used globally over the aircraft structure or locally in real-time reaction to local phenomena.

Through the combined work of experimental studies and numerical work, the PLASMAERO project will characterise the advantages and limitations of plasma actuators (including humid conditions) in flow control which is a necessary step forward in their studies for future aircraft designs.


PLASMAERO seeks to demonstrate how surface and spark discharge plasma actuators can be used to control aircraft aerodynamic flow. This will be achieved through an enhanced understanding of their physical characteristics and an in-depth study of how they may be optimised to influence the air flow properties. The project will run for three years and will show the advantages and notably the ease of implementation that these innovative devices have.

Description of Work

The design of tomorrow's aircraft will be oriented by the need to have more environmentally-friendly aircraft in line with the ACARE 2020 vision. Optimised aerodynamic performance can be one way to achieve this. To move forward towards this objective, it is necessary to study breakthrough and emerging technologies going beyond the limitations of the aircraft's fixed structure and to use efficient actuators to optimise the flow over the airfoil.

The work planned in the PLASMAERO project is structures as follows:

- Understanding, modelling and classifying, through experimental and numerical studies, the most relevant physical characteristics of surface and jet plasma actuators capable of influencing airflow;

- Performing comparative experimental tests and numerical studies of different actuator configurations to select the most promising for further development;

- Demonstrating, through wind tunnel experiments, the ability of plasma devices to significantly improve aircraft aerodynamics in terms of lift, lift/drag and high lift noise in representative airflow conditions (takeoff, cruise and landing);

- Demonstrating the ease of use and installation of these actuators in a reduced size flight platform;

- Providing exhaustive recommendations on future work to be performed in order to implement this technology in the next generation of aircraft programmes.

Expected Results

The project will benchmark and adapt under a single European referential, the most promising innovative plasma actuators which are currently being researched or newly patented. It will demonstrate their ability to be used to control airflow in the most challenging aeronautical configurations.

The recommendations and roadmap for future work will permit European industrial to envisage the further development of this technology base to optimise the aerodynamic performance of aircraft, leading to a reduction in design and manufacturing costs through the simplification of aerodynamic profiles as well as noise and operating costs redutions through improved lift/lift-drag efficiency.

This technology base could also be used for land-based transport such as high speed trains and cars as well other aerodynamic applications such as wind power generators.

Vortices generated by surface plasmas
Vortices generated by surface plasmas