Particle Image Velocimetry

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One common experimental technique for measuring velocity in a flow is particle image velocimetry (PIV), shown above. Special particles are introduced–seeded–into the flow. Typically, these particles are small, neutrally buoyant, and have a refractive index significantly different from the background flow. One or more lasers are used to illuminate a section of the flow–a plane for 2D measurements or a cube for 3D. Rather than operating continuously, the laser is pulsed, producing very short exposure times of the order of hundreds of nanoseconds. A camera (or more than one camera for 3D measurements) captures a pair of images separated by this short exposure. The time between frames is so small that the particles will not have moved much between frames. Researchers can then correlate the two frames and derive velocity data from the motion of the particles.

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