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TECHNOLOGY

Optimizing Aerodynamic Performance with Plasma Actuators

Plasma actuator: A purely electric bladeless fan. A plasma actuator is a solid-state electrical device that consists of a thin layer of insulating material (a dielectric) separating a pair of offset electrodes. When the voltage difference between the covered electrode and the exposed electrode is high, the air close to the surface ionizes (an ionized gas is called a plasma). The interaction between the plasma and the surrounding air induces air flow along the surface of the actuator.

Modulating aerodynamic behavior without moving parts. Plasma actuators can be attached to any aerodynamic surface. This video shows how an array of plasma actuators can mitigate airflow separation and delay stall on a wing in a wind tunnel.

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Read more about plasma flow control in NOVA Next article: "Flying with the Fourth State of Matter"