Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute (RPI)

Skip to main content

Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute Professor Michael Amitay Receives Air Force Grant To Study Flow Separation on Wing Surfaces

Michael "Miki" Amitay

April 10, 2018

Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute Professor Michael Amitay Receives Air Force Grant To Study Flow Separation on Wing Surfaces

Research could lead to improved aerodynamic performance in future-generation aircraft

Michael “Miki” Amitay, the James L. Decker ’45 Endowed Chair in Aerospace Engineering at Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute, has received a grant from the Air Force Office of Scientific Research to study the phenomenon of flow separation on aircraft wings, which could lead to improved aerodynamic performance in future-generation air vehicles.

As lead investigator on the project, Amitay will use the three-year, $894,000 grant to study “Flow physics and control of 3-D separation on 3-D swept wings,” along with co-investigators Vassilis Theofilis of the University of Liverpool, UK, and Kunihiko Taira of Florida State University.

The goal of the project is to clarify and classify the origins of unsteadiness and turbulence in the presence of 3-D large-scale separation structures on a swept wing surface by performing fundamental theoretical, numerical, and experimental research, and to develop physics-based flow control methodologies aimed at the alleviation of adverse wing performance effects associated with those separation phenomena.

“Flow separation can degrade the aerodynamic performance of vehicles and their components at various phases of vehicle motion and, as such, has been the focus of intense efforts to understand and control this phenomenon since the early decades of last century,” said Amitay.

Current work employing experimentation, large-scale computation, and analysis mostly focuses on 2-D separation. However, according to Amitay, configurations exist, notably aircraft swept wings and fins in flight, in which separation is an essentially 3-D phenomenon. For instance, flow unsteadiness on modern unmanned aerial vehicles featuring finite aspect ratio swept wings is linked with the formation and instability of large-scale 3-D pockets of flow separation.

“Our investigations are designed to achieve an enhanced physical understanding of 3-D separation physics and effective strategy for its control,” said Amitay.

An internationally recognized expert in fluid dynamics and flow control, Amitay is the founding director of the Center for Flow Physics and Control (CeFPaC) at Rensselaer, which was established in 2012. The center’s two main thrusts are the aerodynamics of aerial, ground, and underwater vehicles, and wind energy, including smart wind turbine blades. The center’s facilities include a water tunnel and wind tunnels, which Amitay will use to test theoretical predictions devised as part of this project.

Amitay received his bachelor’s, master’s, and doctoral degrees from the Technion–Israel Institute of Technology. For the past 30 years he has performed leading-edge research related to experimental aerodynamics, fluid mechanics, and flow control. His research has been sponsored by the Department of Defense and other federal and state agencies, as well as industry.

His published works include nearly 160 archival and conference publications, four book chapters, and four U.S. patents (with three pending). In addition, three of his conference papers were awarded “best technical paper,” two by the American Institute of Aeronautics and Astronautics, and one by the American Society of Mechanical Engineers. Based on the work of Amitay’s group, Rensselaer won the Boeing Performance Excellence Award (silver level) in 2011 and 2012, and the prestigious Boeing Supplier of the Year award in the Technology category in 2011.

Miki Amitay’s work exemplifies The New Polytechnic, a new paradigm for teaching, learning, and research at Rensselaer that uses advanced technologies to enable fresh collaborations across disciplines, sectors, and regions, in order to answer the global challenges of our day. The New Polytechnic is transformative in the global impact of research, in its innovative pedagogy, and in the lives of students at Rensselaer.





Reeve Hamilton
Director of Media Relations and Communications

(518) 833-4277

For general inquiries:

About Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute

Founded in 1824, Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute is America’s first technological research university. Rensselaer encompasses five schools, 32 research centers, more than 145 academic programs, and a dynamic community made up of more than 7,600 students and more than 100,000 living alumni. Rensselaer faculty and alumni include more than 145 National Academy members, six members of the National Inventors Hall of Fame, six National Medal of Technology winners, five National Medal of Science winners, and a Nobel Prize winner in Physics. With nearly 200 years of experience advancing scientific and technological knowledge, Rensselaer remains focused on addressing global challenges with a spirit of ingenuity and collaboration.