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Wind tunnels are used by

objects, from jet wings to
Aerodynamics as a science
studies the flow of air or
gases around an object in
motion. With a better
understanding of the way
through) objects, manufacturers can devise and create faster, safer, more
reliable and more efficient products of all kinds.
From swaying, unstable breezes to hurricane force blasts, Mother Earth's
wind is a notoriously fickle condition, and thus, pretty much worthless for
aerodynamics testing. Wind tunnels, on the other hand, provide a controlled
environment for this kind of testing.
Wind tunnels are simply hollow tubes; at one end, they have powerful fans
that create a flow of air inside the tunnel. Some tunnels are desktop-sized
and good for testing only very small objects. Other tunnels are massive
structures in which engineers test full-size aircraft and cars. Although the
test materials (usually) remain stationary, rapid airflow inside the tunnel
makes it seem as though objects are moving.

History of Wind Tunnels

Blowing in a New Age
In hopes of taking humans to the heavens, early flight engineers tried to
follow the example of birds. Leonardo da Vinci, for instance, sketched a socalled "ornithopter" in 1485. Yet our winged friends proved less than helpful
when it came to revealing the secrets of flight. Numerous inventors
fabricated bird-inspired machines, only to watch them flop around helplessly
in the dirt.
It became clear that in order for humans to fly, they needed a better
understanding of the interplay between wings and winds. So, these fledgling
fanciers of flight went in search of hilltops, valleys and caves with powerful,
somewhat predictable winds. But natural winds didn't provide the steady

flow that could offer helpful design feedback -- artificial winds were
Enter the whirling arms. In 1746, Benjamin Robins, an English mathematician
and scientist, attached a horizontal arm to a vertical pole, which he rotated,
sending the arm spinning in a circle. At the end of the arm, he affixed a
variety of objects and subjected them to the forces of his homemade
centrifuge. His tests immediately confirmed that the shape of things had a
tremendous effect on air resistance (also known as drag, an element
of aerodynamic force).
Other experimenters, such as Sir George Cayley, soon built whirling arms.
Cayley, in particular, tested airfoil shapes, which looked a lot like a crosssection of an airplane wing, to investigate principles of drag and lift. Lift is an
element of force that moves perpendicular to the direction of an object's
The rotating arm had a serious side effect, however, in that it chopped up
the air as it spun, basically creating hellacious turbulence that greatly
impacted all results and observations. But the arm did result in one
monumental breakthrough: Engineers began to realize that by quickly
propelling an object through the air, they could develop lift. That meant it
wasn't necessary to build flapping wings in order to fly. Instead, humans
needed enough power and the right kind of wing construction. Scientists
needed better investigative tools to work out those important questions.
Wind tunnels were the answer.

The Whirling Winds of Change

Because whirling arms chopped the air and created wake that invalidated
many experiments, scientists needed calmer, artificial winds. Frank H.
Wenham, an Englishman active with the Aeronautical Society of Great
Britain, convinced the organization to help finance the construction of the
first wind tunnel, which debuted in 1871.
Wenham's tunnel was 12 feet (3.7 meters) long and 18 inches (45.7
centimeters) square. It produced 40 mile-per-hour (64 kilometer-per-hour)
winds, thanks to a steam powered fan at the end of the tunnel. In his tunnel,
Wenham tested the effects of lift and drag on airfoils of different shapes. As
he moved the front edge (called the leading edge) of the airfoil up and down,
changing what's called the angle of attack, he found that certain shapes
resulted in better lift than anticipated. Man-powered flight suddenly seemed
more possible than ever before.

Yet the tunnel's rough design

created winds that were too
unsteady for consistent test
results. Better tunnels were
needed for systematic testing
and reliable results. In 1894,
substituted a steam injection
system for fans, resulting in
steadier, less turbulent air
Across the Atlantic Ocean, in
Ohio, the Wright Brothers, Orville and Wilbur, were following developments in
aerodynamics studies and conjuring ideas for glider designs. But real-world
testing of their models was proving to be too time-consuming; it also didn't
provide them with enough data to improve their plans.
They knew they needed a wind tunnel. So, after a bit of tinkering, they
constructed a tunnel with a 16-inch (40.6-centimeter) test section. They
experimented with around 200 different types of wing shapes by attaching
airfoils to two balances -- one for drag, and one for lift. The balances
converted airfoil performance into measurable mechanical action that the
brothers used to complete their calculations.
Slowly, they worked to find the right combination of drag and lift. They began
to realize that narrow, long wings resulted in much more lift than short, thick
wings, and in 1903, their meticulous wind tunnel testing paid off. The Wright
brothers flew the first manned, powered airplane in Kill Devil Hills, N.C. A
new age of technological innovation had begun, in large part thanks to wind

Parts of a Subsonic Wind Tunnel

Diagram of an open-circuit wind tunnel. Although the diagram has many
different numbered items, you only need to be familiar with the few
mentioned here. The Settling Chamber (number 12) is at the very front of
the wind tunnel, and is made up of screens and honeycomb-shaped mesh,
which straighten out the air and reduce turbulence. The Contraction
Cone (numbers 11 and 13) forces a large volume of air through a small
opening in order to increase the wind velocity in the tunnel. The Test
Section (number 10) is the place where a model is mounted on sensors.

The Diffuser (number 8) is

at the end of the Test
Section, and keeps the air
running smoothly as it goes
toward the back. It also
increases in volume in order
to slow the air down as it

exits the tunnel. Finally, the Drive Section (number 7) is at the very back of
the wind tunnel, and it is where the fan is housed. At first, it might seem odd
that the fan is at the back of the tunnel, facing outward, instead of at the
front; but this is actually the best placement, because it will draw air into the
wind tunnel by blowing air out of it. Drawing air in is better than blowing air
in, because it doesn't produce as much turbulence, and it allows for greater
control of the airflow through the tunnel.

Types of Wind Tunnels

Type I classification - Open vs. closed circuit wind tunnel
In open-circuit (open-return) wind tunnel, the air is drawn directly from the
surroundings into the wind tunnel and rejected back into the surroundings,
the wind tunnel is said to have an open-air circuit.

In closed-circuit, or closed-return, wind tunnel, the same air is being

circulated in such a way that the wind tunnel does neither draw new air from
the surrounding, nor returns it into the surroundings. The wind tunnel is said

to have a closed-air circuit. It is

conventional to call that a closedcircuit (closed-return) wind tunnel.

Type II Classification- Subsonic

vs Supersonic wind tunnel
The criterion for classification
is the maximum speed achieved by
the wind tunnel. It is traditional to
use the ratio of the speed of the fluid, or of any other object, and the speed
of sound. That ratio is called the Mach number, named after Ernst Mach, the
19th century physicist. Schematic designs of subsonic and supersonic wind
tunnels are shown in figure. If the maximum speed achieved by the wind
tunnel is less than the speed of sound in air, it is called a subsonic wind
tunnel. The speed of sound in air at room temperature is approximately 343
m/s and for this case Mach number is less than one (M<1).In case of
supersonic wind tunnels, the maximum speed achieved by the wind tunnel is
equal to or greater than the speed of sound in air hence Mach number is
greater than 1(M>1).

Type III classification- Education vs research wind tunnel

The criterion for classification is the purpose for which the wind tunnel is
designed: research or education. If the wind tunnel is for research it is called
a research wind tunnel. If however, it is designed to be used for education,
then, it is called an educational wind tunnel.

Type IV classification- Laminar vs turbulent wind tunnel

The criterion for classification is the nature of the flow: laminar vs. turbulent
flow. Boundary- layer wind tunnels are used to simulate turbulent flow near
and around engineering and manmade structures.

Difference between Subsonic and other Wind tunnels

"Breaking the sound barrier" was a popular theme as planes flew faster
and faster in the late 1940s. It turned out that wind tunnels also ran up
against a sound barrier of sorts. At that seemingly magic speed, the velocity
of sound, strange things begin to happen. In a wind tunnel, for example, as
more and more power is applied to the fans, airflow in the narrowest part of
the test section chokes up at Mach 1, the speed of sound. No matter how fast
the driving fans turn, the air velocity in this part of the test section remains
at Mach 1. The brute-force approach does not work. The same sort of
choking occurs in the narrow throat of a rocket engine. Nevertheless, the hot
exhaust gases of rocket engines travel faster than sound. They accelerate
past Mach 1 as they expand in the rocket engine nozzle. Supersonic wind
tunnels employ the same nozzle expansion to reach supersonic speeds.
Apparently contrary to logic, the test models in a supersonic wind
tunnel are mounted downstream of the throat section where the choking
occurs. Here, in the nozzle, the cross- sectional area of the tunnel is
increasing. However, the velocity of the air is not decreasing, rather it is
accelerating as all the energy pumped into the air by the fans and stored in
the forms of compression and heat energy is converted to kinetic energy. The
rocket engine works the same way except that the energy is added by
burning fuel rather than by fans. Airflow becomes supersonic once it passes
the throat or point of smallest cross-sectional area. This fact of

thermodynamics leads to the apparently contradictory situation in which test

models are placed at the narrowest part of a subsonic tunnel (where
airspeed is logically the greatest) but downstream from the narrow throat of
a supersonic tunnel (where common sense says airspeed should be slowing
The nozzle or expanding portion of the supersonic test section has a
unique shape for each value of the supersonic Mach number. The ratio of test
section area to throat area is 1.69 for Mach 2 and 536 for Mach 10. Thus, to
encompass a range of different Mach numbers, the shape of the nozzle in a
supersonic wind tunnel must be variable. This can be accomplished by
interchangeable nozzle blocks, flexible nozzle walls, or some variant thereof.
This required change in nozzle shape is the first of three major distinctions
between supersonic and subsonic wind tunnels.
The second important difference between subsonic and supersonic
tunnels is the magnitude of the energy losses in the air circuit. In subsonic
tunnels the fans need only increase air pressure a modest 10 percent or so to
compensate for the energy losses induced by the tunnel walls, models,
apparatus, turning vanes, and so on. In a Mach 2 tunnel, however, the fan
pressure must be increased by approximately 100 percent. Thus the simple
fan becomes a compressor consisting of several stages of fans. A Mach 5
tunnel requires a pressure ratio of about 20, necessitating several multistage
compressors in series.
Obviously, a much larger amount of power is consumed by these big
compressors than by the simple fans in subsonic tunnels, suggesting that the
flow losses around the circuit of the supersonic tunnel are much higher for
some reason associated with supersonic aerodynamics. The reason is that
tremendous energy losses occur in the shock waves immediately
downstream from the test section, where the mainstream air decelerates
from supersonic to subsonic speeds. These shock-wave energy losses are
inherent in all supersonic flow. In the supersonic wind tunnel, the electrically
driven fans or compressors must supply this extra energy.
The third and final important engineering difference between subsonic
and supersonic tunnels involves the tunnel air itself. Not only must it be
clean, that is, free from oil, vapor, dust, and foreign particles, but in addition
condensation of the contained water vapor must be avoided. As the tunnel
air expands in the nozzle and latent heat is turned into kinetic energy, air
temperature falls. Condensation of contained moisture is very likely, but
condensation can be avoided by drying the air to extremely low dew points
(e.g., -100 F).


AENG 414-1


Marasigan, Rufino Miguel N.


Engr. Aiven dela Rosa

June 16, 2015