Aerodynamics of cross-flow fans and their application to aircraft propulsion and flow control

Thong Q. Dang, Peter R. Bushnell

Research output: Contribution to journalReview articlepeer-review

72 Scopus citations


Cross-flow fans offer unique opportunities for distributed propulsion and flow control due to their potential for spanwise integration in aircraft wings. The fan may be fully or partially embedded within the wing using a variety of possible configurations. Its inlet may be used to ingest the boundary-layer flow, and its high-energy exhaust flow may be injected into the wake at the wing trailing edge for drag reduction or vectored thrust. Cross-flow fans are high-pressure coefficient machines, so they can be diametrically compact. However, their efficiency is fundamentally limited by unavoidable recirculation flows within the impeller at all flight speeds, and by additional compressibility losses at high speeds. This article reviews the fundamental aerodynamics and flow regions of cross-flow fans using a simple mean-line analysis to examine the basic energy transfer and loss processes. Experimental data for fans intended for aircraft application are then reviewed and compared to calculations using unsteady Navier-Stokes methods, showing the state-of-the art in flow field and performance prediction capability. Alternative prediction methods where blade action is modeled in terms of body-force or vortex elements are discussed, including challenges in handling arbitrary non-uniform, unsteady blade flows for various design configurations. The article concludes with a review of cross-flow fan propulsion and flow control concepts that have been investigated by various researchers, and with discussions on future challenges in their application.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)1-29
Number of pages29
JournalProgress in Aerospace Sciences
Issue number1-3
StatePublished - Jan 2009


  • Airfoil
  • Cross-flow fan
  • Flow control
  • Propulsion
  • Turbomachine

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Aerospace Engineering
  • Mechanics of Materials
  • Mechanical Engineering


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