With active hybrid structures a new situational aerodynamic adaptability of aircrafts is possible, which increases efficiency and reduces noise exposure.
Active hybrid structures, combining the actuation of shape memory alloys (SMA) with fiber reinforced polymers (FRP) on the materials level, provide an actuation principle with high lightweight potential and small space requirements. Being one of the first applications of active hybrid structures, active vortex generators help to demonstrate the advantages of this new technology. High performance airfoils show minimum drag and maximum lift, but tend to suddenly stall due to flow separation at low air speed. This requires an increased minimum speed, resulting in less steep approaches and a higher noise exposure of the surroundings. For aircrafts for agricultural use and wind turbines static vortex generators are used, which however, ubstantially increase the drag. New active vortex generators, deployed only on demand at low speed and preventing the flow separation, can help to overcome this contradiction. Thereby the advantages of vortex generators are available for all aircraft classes without any drawback for the cruise performance. Main objectives of the VortexGen project were the design and verification of modular actuators and their integration in the wing structure of a modern glider as well. Numeric design tools and unique manufacturing approaches for these active hybrid structures, previously developed at IVW, were the technological basis for this project.