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Phononic materials for improved flight of next-generation air vehicles

Strategic Research Initiatives

Kathryn Matlack, Department of Mechanical Science and Engineering

Andres Goza, Phillip Ansell, Department of Aerospace Engineering


The design of next-generation unmanned and micro-air vehicles requires as yet unavailable strategies for responding to and manipulating nonlinear, unsteady, and high-dimensional aerodynamic processes.  The current state of the art in controlling these aerodynamic flows typically involves complex, heavy, and energy-consuming devices, often requiring costly models of the surrounding aerodynamics that cannot be integrated into real-time decisions about how to manipulate the surrounding flow. Phononic materials have the potential to address these challenges and usher in a new flow control paradigm. These materials have frequency-dependent dynamics that can be designed into their geometry, and many unsteady aerodynamic flows are driven by processes that also have characteristic frequency content. Thus, phononic flow control has the potential to align the frequency-dependent structural properties of a phononic material with the frequency-dependent fluid phenomena in unsteady flows to enable passive and adaptive control of complex aerodynamic processes.

We have formed an interdisciplinary team that uniquely spans the areas needed to explore this complex problem, leveraging expertise in aerodynamics, fluid and structural mechanics, elastodynamics, and fluid-structure interaction. Our SRI has three primary aims: (1) create a computational and experimental framework with which to study phononic flow control, (2) capitalize on strong and growing DoD interest to develop and secure center-scale funding opportunities, and (3) establish UIUC as the leader in this paradigm-shifting area.  The most immediate target applications are flow control for maneuverable and disturbance-robust aircraft to enable the next generation unmanned aerial vehicles in military, consumer delivery, and personal transport sectors. Beyond this, phononic flow control has broad-reaching impact in other flow regimes at various time and length scales, including hypersonic flight, hydrodynamics, and microfluidics applications (e.g., drug delivery).