Fluid-structure interaction of a bio-inspired passively deployable flap for lift enhancement

Nirmal J. Nair, Andres Goza

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Birds have a remarkable ability to perform complex maneuvers at post-stall angles of attack such as landing, takeoff, hovering, and perching. The passive deployment of self-actuating covert feathers in response to unsteady flow separation while performing such maneuvers provides a passive, adaptive flow control paradigm for these aerodynamic capabilities. Most studies involving covert-feathers-inspired passive flow control have modeled the feathers as a rigidly attached or a freely moving flap on a wing. A flap mounted via a torsional spring enables a configuration more emblematic of the finite stiffness associated with the covert-feather dynamics (the free-flap case is the zero-stiffness limit of this more general torsional spring configuration). The performance benefits and flow physics associated with this more general case remain largely unexplored. In this work, we model covert feathers as a passively deployable, torsionally hinged flap on the suction surface of a stationary airfoil. We numerically investigate this airfoil-flap system at a low Reynolds number of Re=1000 and angle of attack of 20° by performing high-fidelity nonlinear simulations using a projection-based immersed boundary method. A parametric study performed by varying the stiffness of the spring, mass of the flap and location of the hinge yielded lift improvements as high as 27% relative to the baseline flap-less case and revealed two dominant flow behavioral regimes. A detailed analysis revealed that the stiffness-dependent mean flap deflection and inertia-dependent amplitude and phase of flap oscillations altered the dominant flow characteristics in both the regimes. Of special interest for performance benefits were the flap parameters that enhanced the lift-conducive leading-edge vortex while weakening the trailing-edge vortex and associated detrimental effect of upstream propagation of reverse flow. These parameters also yielded a favorable temporal synchronization of flap oscillations with the vortex-shedding process in both regimes.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Article number064701
JournalPhysical Review Fluids
Issue number6
StatePublished - Jun 2022
Externally publishedYes

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Computational Mechanics
  • Modeling and Simulation
  • Fluid Flow and Transfer Processes


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