Newswise — 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.

About Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute

Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute, founded in 1824, is America’s first technological research university. For nearly 200 years, Rensselaer has been defining the scientific and technological advances of our world. Rensselaer faculty and alumni represent 86 members of the National Academy of Engineering, 17 members of the National Academy of Sciences, 25 members of the American Academy of Arts and Sciences, 8 members of the National Academy of Medicine, 8 members of the National Academy of Inventors, and 5 members of the National Inventors Hall of Fame, as well as 6 National Medal of Technology winners, 5 National Medal of Science winners, and a Nobel Prize winner in Physics. With 7,000 students and nearly 100,000 living alumni, Rensselaer is addressing the global challenges facing the 21st century—to change lives, to advance society, and to change the world. To learn more, go to


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