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Experimental studies were conducted of a flow induced in an initially quiescent room air by a single asymmetric dielectric barrier discharge driven by voltage waveforms consisting of repetitive nanosecond high-voltage pulses superimposed on dc or alternating sinusoidal or square-wave bias voltage. To characterize the pulses and to optimize their matching to the plasma, a numerical code for short pulse calculations with an arbitrary impedance load was developed. A new approach for nonintrusive diagnostics of plasma actuator induced flows in quiescent gas was proposed, consisting of three elements coupled together: the schlieren technique, burst mode of plasma actuator operation, and two-dimensional numerical fluid modeling. The force and heating rate calculated by a plasma model was used as an input to two-dimensional viscous flow solver to predict the time-dependent dielectric barrier discharge induced flow field. This approach allowed us to restore the entire two-dimensional unsteady plasma induced flow pattern as well as characteristics of the plasma induced force. Both the experiments and computations showed the same vortex flow structures induced by the actuator. Parametric studies of the vortices at different bias voltages, pulse polarities, peak pulse voltages, and pulse repetition rates were conducted experimentally. The significance of charge buildup on the dielectric surface was demonstrated. The charge buildup decreases the effective electric field in the plasma and reduces the plasma actuator performance. The accumulated surface charge can be removed by switching the bias polarity, which leads to a newly proposed voltage waveform consisting of high-voltage nanosecond repetitive pulses superimposed on a high-voltage low frequency sinusoidal voltage. Advantages of the new voltage waveform were demonstrated experimentally.