Skip to main content

Turbulence control

If current rates of global air travel are to be sustained, a drastic reduction in aircraft fuel consumption and fuel emissions is required; the Advisory Council for Aeronautical Research in Europe (ACARE) has set an ambitious goal of 50% reduction in CO2 emissions per passenger/km by the year 2020. The ACARE targets can only be achieved with technical advancements in a number of areas: one key area is aircraft aerodynamics.

The main contributor to aerodynamic drag, and thus fuel emissions, is fine-scale turbulence that exists very near to the aircraft’s surface during cruise. Our aims in the Turbulence Control Group are:

a) to create novel computational and experimental techniques to study these near-wall flow structures, which are responsible for high drag in turbulent boundary layers; and

b) using these tools and facilities, develop flow-control technologies capable of majorly reducing drag on passenger jet aircraft.

The characteristics of near-wall turbulence dictate that any aircraft drag-reduction system requires large arrays of actuators and sensors. Existing wiring interconnectivity in aircraft is already highly complex, and so the addition of vast arrays of additional actuating and sensor elements would require a step change in complexity with major cost and weight penalties. In collaboration with the University of Sheffield and Queen’s University Belfast, and funded under an EPSRC/Airbus grant, we are investigating the possibility of controlling and monitoring flow-control devices using wireless technology.