Using Flow Viz for Optimization

Flow visualization is a powerful design tool for engineers. When Google was interested in determining optimal configurations for their heliostat array, they turned to NASA Ames’ water tunnel facility to test upstream barriers to deflect flow off the heliostats.   In each photo, flow is from left to right and fluorescent dye is used to mark streamlines and reveal qualitative flow detail. Upstream of the obstacles, the streamlines are coherent and laminar, but after deflection, the flow breaks down into turbulence. In this case, such turbulence is desirable because it lowers the local fluid velocity and thus the aerodynamic loads experienced by each heliostat, potentially allowing for a savings in fabrication. For more, see Google’s report on the project. (Photo credits:

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