Onur Bilgen Dissertation

Piezoelectrics offer high actuation authority and sensing over a wide range of frequencies. A Macro-Fiber Composite is a type of piezoelectric device that offers structural flexibility and high actuation authority. A challenge with piezoelectric actuators is that they require high voltage input; however the low power consumption allows for relatively lightweight electronic components. Another challenge, for piezoelectric actuated aerodynamic surfaces, is found in operating a relatively compliant, thin structure (desirable for piezoceramic actuators) in situations where there are relatively high external (aerodynamic) forces. Establishing an aeroelastic configuration that is stiff enough to prevent flutter and divergence, but compliant enough to allow the range of available motion is the central challenge in developing a piezocomposite airfoil. The research proposed here is to analyze and implement novel electronic circuits and structural concepts that address these two challenges.

Here, a detailed theoretical and experimental analysis of the aerodynamic and electromechanical systems that are necessary for a practical implementation of a piezocomposite airfoil is presented. First, the electromechanical response of Macro-Fiber Composite based unimorph and bimorph structures is analyzed. A distributed parameter electromechanical model is presented for interdigitated piezocomposite unimorph actuators. Necessary structural features that result in large electrically induced deformations are identified theoretically and verified experimentally. A novel, lightweight electrical circuitry is proposed and implemented to enable the peak-to-peak actuation of Macro-Fiber Composite bimorph devices with asymmetric voltage range.

Next, two novel concepts of supporting the piezoelectric material are proposed to form two types of variable-camber aerodynamic surfaces. The first concept, a simply-supported thin bimorph airfoil, can take advantage of aerodynamic loads to reduce control input moments and increase control effectiveness. The structural boundary conditions of the design are optimized by solving a coupled fluid-structure interaction problem by using a structural finite element method and a panel method based on the potential flow theory for fluids. The second concept is a variable-camber thick airfoil with two cascading bimorphs and a compliant box mechanism. Using the structural and aerodynamic theoretical analysis, both variable-camber airfoil concepts are fabricated and successfully implemented on an experimental ducted-fan vehicle. A custom, fully automated low-speed wind tunnel and a load balance is designed and fabricated for experimental validation. The airfoils are evaluated in the wind tunnel for their two-dimensional lift and drag coefficients at low Reynolds number flow. The effects of piezoelectric hysteresis are identified.

In addition to the shape control application, low Reynolds number flow control is examined using the cascading bimorph variable-camber airfoil. Unimorph type actuators are proposed for flow control in two unique concepts. Several electromechanical excitation modes are identified that result in the delay of laminar separation bubble and improvement of lift. Periodic excitation to the flow near the leading edge of the airfoil is used as the flow control method. The effects of amplitude, frequency and spanwise distribution of excitation are determined experimentally using the wind tunnel setup.

Finally, the effects of piezoelectric hysteresis nonlinearity are identified for Macro-Fiber Composite bimorphs. The hysteresis is modeled for open-loop response using a phenomenological classical Preisach model. The classical Preisach model is capable of predicting the hysteresis observed in 1) two cantilevered bimorph beams, 2) the simply-supported thin airfoil, and 3) the cascading bimorph thick airfoil.


The design and implementation of a morphing unmanned aircraft using smart materials is presented. Articulated lifting surfaces and articulated wing sections actuated by servos are difficult to instrument and fabricate in a repeatable fashion on thin, composite-wing micro-air-vehicles. Assembly is complex and time consuming. A type of piezoceramic composite actuator commonly known as Macro Fiber Composite (MFC) is used for wing morphing. The actuation capability of this actuator on fiberglass unimorph was modeled by the Rayleigh-Ritz method and quantified by experimentation. Wind tunnel tests were performed to compare conventional trailing edge control surface effectiveness to an MFC actuated wing section. The continuous surface of the MFC actuated composite airfoil produced lower drag and wider actuation bandwidth. The MFC actuators were implemented on a 0.76 m wingspan aircraft. The remotely piloted experimental vehicle was flown using two MFC patches in an elevator/aileron (elevon) configuration. Preliminary testing has proven the stability and control of the design. Flight tests were performed to quantify roll control using the actuators. Force and moment coefficients were measured in a low-speed, open section wind tunnel, and the database of aerodynamic derivatives were used to analyze control response.


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