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During the flight of birds, it is often possible to notice that some of the primaries and covert feathers on the upper side of the wing pop-up under critical flight conditions, such as the landing approach or when stalking their prey (see Fig. 1) . It is often conjectured that the feathers pop up plays an aerodynamic role by limiting the spread of flow separation . A combined experimental and numerical study was conducted to shed some light on the physical mechanism determining the feathers self actuation and their effective role in controlling the flow field in nominally stalled conditions. In particular, we have considered a NACA0020 aerofoil, equipped with a flexible flap at low chord Reynolds numbers. A parametric study has been conducted on the effects of the length, natural frequency, and position of the flap. A configuration with a single flap hinged on the suction side at 70 % of the chord size c (from the leading edge), with a length of \documentclass[12pt]{minimal} \usepackage{amsmath} \usepackage{wasysym} \usepackage{amsfonts} \usepackage{amssymb} \usepackage{amsbsy} \usepackage{mathrsfs} \usepackage{upgreek} \setlength{\oddsidemargin}{-69pt} \begin{document}$$L=0.2c$$\end{document}L=0.2c matching the shedding frequency of vortices at stall condition has been found to be optimum in delivering maximum aerodynamic efficiency and lift gains. Flow evolution both during a ramp-up motion (incidence angle from \documentclass[12pt]{minimal} \usepackage{amsmath} \usepackage{wasysym} \usepackage{amsfonts} \usepackage{amssymb} \usepackage{amsbsy} \usepackage{mathrsfs} \usepackage{upgreek} \setlength{\oddsidemargin}{-69pt} \begin{document}$$\alpha _0=0$$\end{document}α0=0 to \documentclass[12pt]{minimal} \usepackage{amsmath} \usepackage{wasysym} \usepackage{amsfonts} \usepackage{amssymb} \usepackage{amsbsy} \usepackage{mathrsfs} \usepackage{upgreek} \setlength{\oddsidemargin}{-69pt} \begin{document}$$\alpha _s=20^\circ$$\end{document}αs=20∘ with a reduced frequency of \documentclass[12pt]{minimal} \usepackage{amsmath} \usepackage{wasysym} \usepackage{amsfonts} \usepackage{amssymb} \usepackage{amsbsy} \usepackage{mathrsfs} \usepackage{upgreek} \setlength{\oddsidemargin}{-69pt} \begin{document}$$k= 0.12\, U_{\infty }/c$$\end{document}k=0.12U∞/c, \documentclass[12pt]{minimal} \usepackage{amsmath} \usepackage{wasysym} \usepackage{amsfonts} \usepackage{amssymb} \usepackage{amsbsy} \usepackage{mathrsfs} \usepackage{upgreek} \setlength{\oddsidemargin}{-69pt} \begin{document}$$U_{\infty }$$\end{document}U∞ being the free stream velocity magnitude), and at a static stalled condition (\documentclass[12pt]{minimal} \usepackage{amsmath} \usepackage{wasysym} \usepackage{amsfonts} \usepackage{amssymb} \usepackage{amsbsy} \usepackage{mathrsfs} \usepackage{upgreek} \setlength{\oddsidemargin}{-69pt} \begin{document}$$\alpha =20^\circ$$\end{document}α=20∘) were analysed with and without the flap. A significant increase of the mean lift after a ramp-up manoeuvre is observed in presence of the flap. Stall dynamics (i.e., lift overshoot and oscillations) are altered and the simulations reveal a periodic re-generation cycle composed of a leading edge vortex that lift the flap during his passage, and an ejection generated by the relaxing of the flap in its equilibrium position. The flap movement in turns avoid the interaction between leading and trailing edge vortices when lift up and push the trailing edge vortex downstream when relaxing back. This cyclic behaviour is clearly shown by the periodic variation of the lift about the average value, and also from the periodic motion of the flap. A comparison with the experiments shows a similar but somewhat higher non-dimensional frequency of the flap oscillation. By assuming that the cycle frequency scales inversely with the boundary layer thickness, one can explain the higher frequencies observed in the experiments which were run at a Reynolds number about one order of magnitude higher than in the simulations. In addition, in experiments the periodic re-generation cycle decays after 3–4 periods ultimately leading to the full stall of the aerofoil. In contrast, the 2D simulations show that the cycle can become self-sustained without any decay when the flap parameters are accurately tuned.
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