Revolutionary Hypersonic Aerospace Vehicles 
With Plasma Actuators That Require No Moving Parts

Air Force Research Laboratory

AFRL is laying the groundwork to develop revolutionary hypersonic aerospace vehicles. Researchers are examining the feasibility of replacing traditional mechanical actuators, which move like wing flaps to control an air vehicle’s flight control surfaces, with plasma actuators that require no moving parts and are more reliable.

As part of the Boundary Layers and Hypersonics program, AFRL conducted a wind tunnel test to evaluate the feasibility of using plasma actuators for airframe flight control. In AFRL’s Mach 5 Plasma Channel wind tunnel, engineers used a strong electric field to ionize air around an air vehicle model to create plasma. The plasma-heated air successfully exerted force on the model and demonstrated that the plasma actuator concept is a viable area for further study and development. The program focuses on characterizing, predicting, and controlling high-speed fluid dynamic phenomena, including boundary layer transition; shock/boundary layer and shock/shock interactions; and other airframe propulsion integration phenomena such as real-gas effects, plasma aerodynamics, magneto-hydrodynamics, and high-speed flow heat transfer. (Mr. R. Kimmel, AFRL/VAAA, (937) 656-7868)

AFRL Develops Plasma Actuator Computational Model - (Outside Link) (Archived)

AFRL Proves Feasibility of Plasma Actuators - (Outside Link) (Archived)

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