Wake vortex evolution of a square cylinder with a slot synthetic jet issuing from the cylinder’s rear surface has been experimentally investigated using the time-resolved particle image velocimetry technique. The Reynolds number based on the side length of the square cylinder is
. The excitation frequency normalized by the natural shedding frequency
varies from 0 to 6 at the dimensionless stroke length
. The distributions of the time-averaged Reynolds stresses present significant differences as the excitation frequency increases. With control, the mean streamwise velocity deficit of the wake recovers more quickly in comparison with the natural case, and the vertical velocity fluctuation intensity becomes weaker. Moreover, a drag reduction can be achieved for the control cases, especially, for
, a thrust instead of drag reduction can be obtained. The profiles of the mean streamwise velocity tend to have jet-like distributions. The wake vortex dynamics and its evolution with the excitation frequency are revealed. (i) For the low excitation frequency cases (
, 1, 2), no significant changes in the dominant frequency and the spanwise vortex structures are observed in comparison with the natural case. (ii) For the moderate excitation frequency case (
), the wake vortex shedding frequency is locked on half of the control frequency. In this case, the shear layer is divided into two parts by the synthetic jet vortex, and the wake vortices with smaller scales still shed asymmetrically and appear closer to the square cylinder. (iii) For the high excitation frequency case (
), the flow is governed by the synthetic jet. As a result of strong perturbations of the synthetic jet, the wake vortex shedding becomes symmetric with the shedding frequency consistent with the control frequency. And the separation is suppressed effectively. The different control effects of the slot synthetic jet on a square cylinder and a circular cylinder are also compared in detail. Generally speaking, the circular cylinder is easier to be controlled due to its non-fixed separation points.