Surface topography control has use across many applications including delayed separation of flow via selective boundary-layer tripping. Recently, advances with liquid crystal elastomers (LCE) have been leveraged for controlled, repeatable, out-of-plane deformations that could enable these topographical changes. An aligned LCE deforms when heated, associated with a loss in order. Circumferential patterns fabricated through the thickness of the LCE film yield a predictable conical out-of-plane deformation that can control surface topography. This study focuses on the experimental investigation of LCE behavior for flow control. Initially, the deformations of LCE samples 1/2” in diameter and 50 µm thick were characterized using Digital Image Correlation under uniform positive and negative gauge pressures at various temperatures. Surface topography showed strong dependence on boundary conditions, sample dimensions, and pattern location relative to the applied boundary conditions, informing adjustment of the LCE of the chemistry to produce higher modulus and glassy materials. As an initial demonstration of the ability to control flow, Then, to demonstrate the potential for flow control, 3D printed cylinders with varying arrangements of representative topographical features were characterized in a wind tunnel with Particle Image Velocimetry. Results showed that features with a maximum deflection height of 1.5 mm in a two-row arrangement can form an asymmetric wake about a 73 mm diameter cylinder that reduces drag while generating lift. These results inform subsequent investigation of active LCE elements on a cylinder that are currently under examination.
Michael Settle, Tyler Guin, Richard Beblo, Timothy White, and Gregory Reich, "The effects of surface topography control using liquid crystal elastomers on bodies in flow," Proc. SPIE 10596, Behavior and Mechanics of Multifunctional Materials and Composites XII, 105961J (Presented at SPIE Smart Structures and Materials + Nondestructive Evaluation and Health Monitoring: March 08, 2018; Published: 22 March 2018); https://doi.org/10.1117/12.2295915.
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