Plasma Actuators

Truck Tractor and Trailer Aerodynamic Drag Reduction.

With this technology fully developed, less horsepower will be required under the same trip conditions. Being able to reduce fuel costs can add directly to a company’s bottom line.


Company Name

University of Notre Dame

Reference Number 1275

Market Sectors:


Operational Areas

Manufacturing & Production

Commercial Solutions

Improve the Environment
Increase Efficiency
Reduce Cost

Speed to Market

Immediate, Over 12 months



The drag produced by class 8 trucks requires two-thirds of the engine’s output to maintain a highway speed.  To put in another way, a large portion of the power consumed by these types of vehicles is spent in overcoming aerodynamic drag. The reduction of this drag force would benefit vehicle characteristics, such as fuel efficiency and engine horsepower requirements.


An active flow control system utilizing plasma actuators has been developed at the University of Notre Dame.  This system is capable of generating a body force which controls flow separation from a vehicle.  By controlling flow separation, the drag force on a vehicle is minimized.  In essence, a vehicle can be streamlined independent of its actual shape. Physical devices such as spoilers, bobtails,  flow plates, and diverter tabs have been used to move the airflow in a desired direction.  Plasma actuators ionize the local airflow to induce a similar affect without the added structural components or weight.  Even the best designed physical devices attempt to divert flow, unlike plasmas which modify the existing flow field.


Being able to reduce fuel costs can add directly to a company’s bottom line.  With less drag affecting a vehicle, fuel efficiency will be improved.  With this technology fully developed on a vehicle, less horsepower will be required under the same trip conditions.

reduction in a quarter of the aerodynamic drag which affects large highway vehicles is thought to be possible.

Small form factor (mm) allows device to be placed at any desired location and in combination with other passive devices.

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