This work proposes a feedback-loop strategy to suppress intrinsic oscillations of resonating flows in the fully nonlinear regime. The frequency response of the flow is obtained from the resolvent operator about the mean flow, extending the framework initially introduced by McKeon & Sharma (J. Fluid Mech., vol. 658, 2010, pp. 336–382) to study receptivity mechanisms in turbulent flows. Using this linear time-invariant model of the nonlinear flow, modern control methods such as structured
-synthesis can be used to design a controller. The approach is successful in damping self-sustained oscillations associated with specific eigenmodes of the mean-flow spectrum. Despite excellent performance, the linear controller is however unable to completely suppress flow oscillations, and the controlled flow is effectively attracted towards a new dynamical equilibrium. This new attractor is characterized by a different mean flow, which can in turn be used to design a second controller. The method can then be iterated on subsequent mean flows, until the coupled system eventually converges to the base flow. An intuitive parallel can be drawn with Newton’s iteration: at each step, a linearized model of the flow response to a perturbation of the input is sought, and a new linear controller is designed, aiming at further reducing the fluctuations. The method is illustrated on the well-known case of two-dimensional incompressible open-cavity flow at Reynolds number
, where the fully developed flow is initially quasiperiodic (2-torus state). The base flow is reached after five iterations. The present work demonstrates that nonlinear control problems may be solved without resorting to nonlinear reduced-order models. It also shows that physically relevant linear models can be systematically derived for nonlinear flows, without resorting to black-box identification from input–output data; the key ingredient being frequency-domain models based on the linearized Navier–Stokes equations about the mean flow. Applicability to amplifier flows and turbulent dynamics has, however, yet to be investigated.