Feedback control of instabilities in the two-dimensional Blasius boundary layer: The role of sensors and actuators

Brandt A. Belson, Onofrio Semeraro, Clarence Worth Rowley, Dan S. Henningson

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

61 Scopus citations


We analyze the effects of different types and positions of actuators and sensors on controllers' performance and robustness in the linearized 2D Blasius boundary layer. The investigation is carried out using direct numerical simulations (DNS). To facilitate controller design, we find reduced-order models from the DNS data using a system identification procedure called the Eigensystem Realization Algorithm. Due to the highly convective nature of the boundary layer and corresponding time delays, the relative position of the actuator and sensor has a strong influence on the closed-loop dynamics. We address this issue by considering two different configurations. When the sensor is upstream of the actuator, corresponding to disturbance-feedforward control, good performance is observed, as in previous work. However, feedforward control can be degraded by additional disturbances or uncertainties in the plant model, and we demonstrate this. We then examine feedback controllers in which the sensor is a short distance downstream of the actuator. Sensors farther downstream of the actuator cause inherent time delays that limit achievable performance. The performance of the resulting feedback controllers depends strongly on the form of actuation introduced, the quantities sensed, and the observability of the structures deformed by the controller's action. These aspects are addressed by varying the spatial distribution of actuator and sensor. We find an actuator-sensor pair that is well-suited for feedback control, and demonstrate that it has good performance and robustness, even in the presence of unmodeled disturbances.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Article number054106
JournalPhysics of Fluids
Issue number5
StatePublished - May 20 2013

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • Computational Mechanics
  • Condensed Matter Physics
  • Mechanics of Materials
  • Mechanical Engineering
  • Fluid Flow and Transfer Processes


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