Oil Flow Viz

Fluorescent oil sprayed onto a model in the NASA Langley 14 by 22-Foot Subsonic Wind Tunnel glows under ultraviolet light. Airflow over the model pulls the initially even coat of oil into patterns dependent on the air’s path. The air accelerates around the curved leading edge of the model, curling up into a strong lifting vortex similar to that seen on a delta wing. At the joint where the wings separate from the body those lifting vortices appear to form strong recirculation zones, as evidenced by the spiral patterns in the oil. Dark patches, like those downstream of the engines could be caused by an uneven application of oil or by areas of turbulent flow, which has larger shear stress at the wall than laminar flow and thus applies more force to move the oil away. Be sure to check out NASA’s page for high-resolution versions of the photo. (Photo credit: NASA Langley/Preston Martin; via PopSci)

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