Defense Date


Document Type


Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy


Mechanical Engineering

First Advisor

Karla Mossi


With the looming energy crisis compounded by the global economic downturn there is an urgent need to increase energy efficiency and to discover new energy sources. An approach to solve this problem is to improve the efficiency of aerodynamic vehicles by using active flow control tools such as synthetic jet actuators. These devices are able to reduce fuel consumption and streamlined vehicle design by reducing drag and weight, and increasing maneuverability. Hence, the main goal of this dissertation is to study factors that affect the efficiency of synthetic jets by incorporating energy harvesting into actuator design using prestressed piezoelectric composites. Four state-of-the-art piezoelectric composites were chosen as active diaphragms in synthetic jet actuators. These composites not only overcome the inherent brittle and fragile nature of piezoelectric materials but also enhance domain movement which in turn enhances intrinsic contributions. With these varying characteristics among different types of composites, the intricacies of the synthetic jet design and its implementation increases. In addition the electrical power requirements of piezoelectric materials make the new SJA system a coupled multiphysics problem involving electro–mechanical and structural–fluid interactions. Due to the nature of this system, a design of experiments approach, a method of combining experiments and statistics, is utilized. Geometric and electro-mechanical factors are investigated using a fractional factorial design with peak synthetic jet velocity as a response variable. Furthermore, energy generated by the system oscillations is harvested with a prestressed composite and a piezo-polymer. Using response surface methodology the process is optimized under different temperatures and pressures to simulate harsh environmental conditions. Results of the fractional factorial experimental design showed that cavity dimensions and type of signal used to drive the synthetic jet actuator were statistically significant factors when studying peak jet velocity. The Bimorph (~50m/s) and the prestressed metal composite (~45m/s) generated similar peak jet velocities but the later is the most robust of all tested actuators. In addition, an alternate input signal to the composite, a sawtooth waveform, leads to jets formed with larger peak velocities at frequencies above 15Hz. The optimized factor levels for the energy harvesting process were identified as 237.6kPa, 3.7Hz, 1MΩ and 12°C and the power density measured at these conditions was 24.27µW/mm3. Finally, the SJA is integrated with an energy harvesting system and the power generated is stored into a large capacitor and a rechargeable battery. After approximately six hours of operation 5V of generated voltage is stored in a 330µF capacitor with the prestressed metal composite as the harvester. It is then demonstrated that energy harvested from the inherent vibrations of a SJA can be stored for later use. Then, the system proposed in this dissertation not only improves on the efficiency of aerodynamic bodies, but also harvests energy that is otherwise wasted.


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Is Part Of

VCU Theses and Dissertations

Date of Submission

August 2009

Included in

Engineering Commons