Section: Research Program

Optimization and control of fluid flows with visual servoing

Fluid flow control is a recent and active research domain. A significant part of the work carried out so far in that field has been dedicated to the control of the transition from laminarity to turbulence. Delaying, accelerating or modifying this transition is of great economical interest for industrial applications. For instance, it has been shown that for an aircraft, a drag reduction can be obtained while enhancing the lift, leading consequently to limit fuel consumption. In contrast, in other application domains such as industrial chemistry, turbulence phenomena are encouraged to improve heat exchange, increase the mixing of chemical components and enhance chemical reactions. Similarly, in military and civilians applications where combustion is involved, the control of mixing by means of turbulence handling rouses a great interest, for example to limit infra-red signatures of fighter aircraft.

Flow control can be achieved in two different ways: passive or active control. Passive control provides a permanent action on a system. Most often it consists in optimizing shapes or in choosing suitable surfacing (see for example  [50] where longitudinal riblets are used to reduce the drag caused by turbulence). The main problem with such an approach is that the control is, of course, inoperative when the system changes. Conversely, in active control the action is time varying and adapted to the current system's state. This approach requires an external energy to act on the system through actuators enabling a forcing on the flow through for instance blowing and suction actions [62], [54]. A closed-loop problem can be formulated as an optimal control issue where a control law minimizing an objective cost function (minimization of the drag, minimization of the actuators power, etc.) must be applied to the actuators [48]. Most of the works of the literature indeed comes back to open-loop control approaches [61], [56], [60] or to forcing approaches [53] with control laws acting without any feedback information on the flow actual state. In order for these methods to be operative, the model used to derive the control law must describe as accurately as possible the flow and all the eventual perturbations of the surrounding environment, which is very unlikely in real situations. In addition, as such approaches rely on a perfect model, a high computational costs is usually required. This inescapable pitfall has motivated a strong interest on model reduction. Their key advantage being that they can be specified empirically from the data and represent quite accurately, with only few modes, complex flows' dynamics. This motivates an important research axis in the Fluminance group.