NASA Glenn Research Center Controls and Dynamics Technology Branch
About Us
Facility Software

Active Flow Control Laboratory

The Active Flow Control Laboratory is an experimental facility for the development and testing of flow control technologies supporting internal aerothermodynamic improvements in turbomachinery.

Flow Control is a fluid dynamics technology which is being exploited to improve the performance of aerodynamic surfaces under widely varying conditions. Many of these technologies are becoming common on present day aircraft as passive devices in the form of vortex generators on the upper surface of wings and the vertical winglets seen at the wing tips. Inside a gas turbine engine the thermodynamics must be considered as well as the aerodynamics, hence the term “aerothermodynamics” is used. On the internal flow surfaces of the engine there are many potential flow control opportunities which are being explored. These technologies are focused on improving performance, increasing operability, and lowering engine noise. The tangible benefits to the public are improved fuel efficiency with lower emissions, improved vehicle safety, less noise in the environment, and lower cost of air travel.

Active Control implies that a technology is applied in response to a condition. In active flow control the intent is to apply the control device when needed, thereby gaining the desired improvement. When not required, the control is not applied, and does not detract from the natural performance of the flow surfaces in the engine. In other words, there is little or no penalty to be paid for employing the technology, but major benefits when it is used. Sensing the flow condition is also a major factor in closed loop control.

The Active Flow Control Laboratory is used to develop and test miniaturized actuation devices which will ultimately be embedded within the components of a turbine engine. These devices may take on many forms and use different physical mechanisms to energize the flow through and engine, thereby correcting flow defects and improving the overall performance. In order to evaluate these actuation devices the lab contains a low speed wind tunnel and a large array of precision instrumentation. The laboratory serves as a small, low cost environment to develop, evaluate, and optimize technologies in preparation for testing in the larger turbine component rig facilities.

Active Flow Control Rig

Active Flow Control Laboratory Capabilities


Operating Values


12:1 contraction with flow straightener

Test section size

12 inch by 12 inch,  36 inch length

Test section velocity

0 to 40 m/s

Drive motor

2 hp, variable speed


Active Flow Control Laboratory Instrumentation


Number and Type

Pressure scanner 1

Pressure scanner 2

16 channel - 10 inch H2O,  Barometric Ref

16 channel – 1 psi,  Barometric Ref

Dynamic pressure

4 channel, 8 psi dynamic range, 0.5 Hz to 50 kHz

Hot wire

4 channel

Volume flow 1

Volume flow 2

Control/measure, 200 liters/minute

Measure, 15 liters/minute

Scarred for laser diagnostics

Interlocks,  50 mJ/pulse laser, 532 nm

Data acquisition 1

Data acquisition 2

16 channel, 200 kHz / channel, simultaneous, 12 bit

16 channel, 200 kHz, multiplexed, 12 bit

Tunnel operation

National Instruments LabVIEW control system


Dennis Culley
Phone: (216) 433-3797

top of page

Facilities Index

responsible official: Kevin Melcher
site maintenance: Edmond Wong
nasa privacy statement
last updated: 2.29.08