Numerical Study of Multiple Bio-Inspired Torsionally Hinged Flaps for Passive Flow Control

Nirmal J. Nair, Zoey Flynn, Andres Goza

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Covert feathers are a set of self-actuating, passively deployable feathers located on the upper surfaces of wings that augment lift at post-stall angles of attack. Due to these benefits, the study of covert-inspired passive flow control devices is becoming an increasingly active area of research. In this work, we numerically investigate the aerodynamic benefits of torsionally mounting five covert-inspired flaps on the upper surface of a NACA0012 airfoil. Two-dimensional high-fidelity simulations of the flow past the airfoil–flap system at low Re = 1000 and a high angle of attack of 20 were performed. A parametric study was conducted by varying the flap moment of inertia and torsional hinge stiffness to characterize the aerodynamic performance of this system. Lift improvements as high as 25% were attained. Two regimes of flap dynamics were identified that provided considerable aerodynamic benefits. A detailed investigation of the flow physics of both these regimes was conducted to understand the physical mechanisms by which the passively deployed flaps augmented the lift of the airfoil. In both regimes, the flap was found to act as a barrier in preventing the upstream propagation of reverse flow due to flow separation and trailing edge vortex. The torsional spring and flap inertia yielded additional flap dynamics that further modulated the surrounding flow and associated performance metrics. We discuss some of these fluid–structure interaction effects in this article.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Article number44
Issue number2
StatePublished - Feb 2022


  • Bio-inspired locomotion
  • Covert feathers
  • Fluid–structure interaction
  • Passive flow control

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Condensed Matter Physics
  • Mechanical Engineering
  • Fluid Flow and Transfer Processes


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