Rugged Synthetic Jet Actuators for Pracital Flight Control Applications

Period of Performance: 12/10/2008 - 11/19/2009


Phase 1 SBIR

Recipient Firm

Barron Assoc., Inc.
Principal Investigator


Many roadblocks exist to bringing promising synthetic jet actuator flow control technology to fruition in a military application, including environmental sensitivity, scalability to a full-size aircraft, narrow dynamic range, and variability of performance between nominally identical actuators due to manufacturing imprecision. Many of these limitations are inherent in traditional piezoelectric-driven synthetic jet actuators (SJAs). Barron Associates and the University of Wyoming propose an innovative new SJA design that promises to overcome many of the limitations of traditional SJAs. The proposed SJAs will feature a much broader dynamic range, improved manufacturing uniformity and scalability, and vastly improved environmental robustness. The overall objectives of the Phase I effort will be to construct coated piezoelectric SJAs and test these actuators alongside SJAs of the new design. A series of environmental tests and subsequent wind tunnel tests, including an existing adaptive feedback controller, will be used to assess peak performance and environmental robustness and objectively compare the design approaches in terms of reliability, cost, weight, etc. Actuator failure modes and failure probabilities will be statistically modeled. BENEFIT: Although promising active flow control results have been achieved in controlled environments, traditional synthetic jet actuator designs feature inherent limitations that may prove to be insurmountable in a practical military aircraft application. For synthetic jets to make the transition from laboratory scale tests to aircraft platforms, a robust synthetic jet actuator must be developed that can withstand the harsh operational environments typical of military air vehicle missions. An innovative new synthetic jet actuator design may overcome many of these limitations and may prove to be suitable for widespread application in operational environments. A suitable synthetic jet actuator could give rise to many diverse applications, including enhancement of aircraft high lift systems, back-up aircraft flight control power for improved safety, and many other instances of high-payoff lift enhancement and/or drag reduction.