Publication Date


Document Type


Committee Members

James Menart (Committee Member), Mark Reeder (Committee Member), Joseph Shang (Committee Member), Rolf Sondergaard (Committee Member), Mitch Wolff (Advisor)

Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)


Low Reynolds number boundary layer separation causes reduced aerodynamic performance in a variety of applications such as MAVs, UAVs, and turbomachinery. The inclusion of a boundary layer separation control system offers a way to improve efficiency in conditions that would otherwise result in poor performance. Many effective passive and active boundary layer control methods exist. Active methods offer the ability to turn on, off, or adjust parameters of the flow control system with either an open loop or closed loop control strategy using sensors. This research investigates the use of a unique sensor called Surface Stress Sensitive Film (S3F) in a closed loop, low Reynolds number separation control system. S3F is an elastic film that responds to flow pressure gradients and shear stress along its wetted surface, allowing optical measurement of wall pressure and skin friction. A new method for installing the S3F sensor to assure a smooth interface between the wall and wetted S3F surface was investigated using Particle Image Velocimetry techniques (PIV). A Dielectric Barrier Discharge (DBD) plasma actuator is used to control laminar boundary layer separation on an Eppler 387 airfoil over a range of low Reynolds numbers. Several different DBD plasma actuator electrode configurations were fabricated and characterized in an open loop configuration to verify separation control of the Eppler 387 boundary layer. The open loop study led to the choice of a spanwise array of steady linear vertical jets generated by DBD plasma as the control system flow effecter. Operation of the plasma actuator resulted in a 33% reduction in section drag coefficient and reattachment of an otherwise separated boundary layer. The dissertation culminates with an experimental demonstration of S3F technology integrated with a control system and flow effecter for closed loop, low Reynolds number separation control. A simple On/Off controller and Proportional Integral (PI) controller were used to close the control loop.

Page Count


Department or Program

Ph.D. in Engineering

Year Degree Awarded


Included in

Engineering Commons