Drag reduction and thrust generation by tangential surface motion in flow past a cylinder

  • Xuerui MaoEmail author
  • Emily Pearson
Original Article


Sensitivity of drag to tangential surface motion is calculated in flow past a circular cylinder in both two- and three-dimensional conditions at Reynolds number \(\textit{Re} \le 1000\). The magnitude of the sensitivity maximises in the region slightly upstream of the separation points where the contour lines of spanwise vorticity are normal to the cylinder surface. A control to reduce drag can be obtained by (negatively) scaling the sensitivity. The high correlation of sensitivities of controlled and uncontrolled flow indicates that the scaled sensitivity is a good approximation of the nonlinear optimal control. It is validated through direct numerical simulations that the linear range of the steady control is much higher than the unsteady control, which synchronises the vortex shedding and induces lock-in effects. The steady control injects angular momentum into the separating boundary layer, stabilises the flow and increases the base pressure significantly. At \(\textit{Re}=100\), when the maximum tangential motion reaches 50% of the free-stream velocity, the vortex shedding, boundary-layer separation and recirculation bubbles are eliminated and 32% of the drag is reduced. When the maximum tangential motion reaches 2.5 times of the free-stream velocity, thrust is generated and the power savings ratio, defined as the ratio of the reduced drag power to the control input power, reaches 19.6. The mechanism of drag reduction is attributed to the change of the radial gradient of spanwise vorticity (\(\partial _{r} \hat{\zeta }\)) and the subsequent accelerated pressure recovery from the uncontrolled separation points to the rear stagnation point.


Drag reduction Sensitivity Bluff body flow 


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The authors would like to thank Professor Kwing-So Choi for helpful discussions. XM would like to acknowledge financial support under EPSRC grant EP/M025039/1. This work made use of the facilities of N8 HPC provided and funded by the N8 consortium and EPSRC (Grant No.EP/K000225/1). The Centre is co-ordinated by the Universities of Leeds and Manchester.


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Copyright information

© Springer-Verlag GmbH Germany, part of Springer Nature 2018

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Faculty of EngineeringThe University of NottinghamNottinghamUK
  2. 2.School of Engineering and Computer SciencesDurham UniversityDurhamUK

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