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(SUB CODE-AE39001)
Under the guidance of Dr. Sandeep Saha

Experiment 5
Flow visualization with SCHLIEREN

ByAbhishek Sinha(14AE10002),Aerodynamics Lab,Aerospace Engg. Dept.,

I.I.T Kharagpur,
Date of completion: 8th September 2016

(i) To perform flow visualization using Schlieren technique and determine inlet Mach number
in a supersonic wind tunnel using relationship and a wedge.
(ii) Determination of stagnation conditions from the inlet Mach number.

1.2 Apparatus Required

Supersonic wind tunnel
Schlieren setup

1.3 Introduction

Supersonic wind tunnel is a wind tunnel that produces supersonic speeds. As a subsonic
flow is contracted, the velocity and Mach number increase. When the velocity reaches the
speed of sound (M = 1), the flow chokes and the Mach number cannot be increased beyond M
= 1. We want the highest possible velocity in the test section of the wind tunnel. For a
supersonic wind tunnel, we contract the flow until it chokes in the throat of a nozzle. We then
diffuse the flow which increases the speed supersonically. The test section of the supersonic
tunnel is placed at the end of the diffuser.

Schlieren photography is a visual process that is used to photograph the flow of fluids of varying
density. Invented by the German physicist August Toepler in 1864 to study supersonic motion,

it is widely used in aeronautical engineering to

photograph the flow of air around objects. The light is
focused with a converging optical element (usually a
lens or curved mirror), and a knife-edge is placed at
the focal point, positioned to block about half the light.
In flow of uniform density this will simply make the
photograph half as bright. However, in flow with
density variations the distorted beam focuses
imperfectly, and parts which have been focused in an
area covered by the knife-edge are blocked. The result
is a set of lighter and darker patches corresponding to
positive and negative fluid density gradients in the
direction normal to the knife-edge

Schlieren Setup:
The schlieren system shown in this figure uses two concave mirrors on either side of the test
section of the wind tunnel. A mercury vapor lamp or a spark gap system is used as a bright
source of light. The light is passed through a slit which is placed such that the reflected light
from the mirror forms parallel rays that pass through the test section. On the other side of the
tunnel, the parallel rays are collected by another mirror and focused to a point at the knife
edge. The rays continue on to a screen.
Now if the parallel rays of light
encounter a density gradient in
the test section, the light is
bent, or refracted. In the
schematic, a shock wave has
been generated by a model
placed in the supersonic flow
through the tunnel test section.
Shock waves are thin regions of
high gradients in pressure,
temperature and density. A ray
of light passing through the
shock wave is bent as shown by

the dashed line in the figure. This ray of light does not pass through the focal point, but is
stopped by the knife edge. The resulting image recorded by the camera has darkened lines
that occur where the density gradients are present. The model completely blocks the passing
of the light rays, so we see a black image of the model. But more important, the shock waves
generated by the model are now seen as darkened lines on the image. We have a way to
visualize shock waves

Components of supersonic wind tunnel:

Supersonic Diffusers: The role of a supersonic diffuser is to take the supersonic gas
from a wind tunnels test section and slow it down to a subsonic velocity at the exit
plane in order to reduce the overall pressure differential needed to operate the tunnel.
The function of a diffuser is to slow down the flow with as little loss in total pressure as

Settling Chamber: The settling chamber does exactly what its name implies: It helps
to settle and straighten the air, often through the use of panels with honeycomb-shaped
holes or even a mesh screen.

The convergent-divergent nozzle: The area-velocity relation, shown in the analysis

section, describes the effect of flow velocity from changing area through a nozzle.
Nozzle flow will either accelerate or decelerate based on increasing or decreasing area.
The interesting aspect is that a converging section of a nozzle will accelerate flow that
has a Mach number less than 1. However, when the flow is supersonic, the Mach
greater than 1, the flow will decelerate from a converging section with the presence of
shocks, the principle important in the Ramjet inlet section. A diverging section, area
change increasing, will accelerate flow when the Mach number is greater than 1. This is
due to the difference in pressure of supersonic flow where the flow wants to expand
and will accelerate down the length of a diverging nozzle when supersonic.

Conservation of mass: m = VA


= --------------------------------------- (1)

Conservation of momentum: = ------------------------------------ (2)

Isentropic flow:

<=> = ---------- (3)

Combining with momentum equation

Combining with mass ( )

------------- (4)

---------------------------- (5)

The test section at the nozzle exit: It is the basic element of wind tunnel on which
all other designs are generally made. All the aerodynamic models are mounted in the
test section when the tunnel is operated with desired flow velocity. Various shapes for
the test section are considered for constructing the wind tunnel viz. hexagonal,
octagonal, rectangle etc. The test section is generally designed on the basis of utility and
aerodynamic considerations since cost of construction depends on the test section area.
Length of the test section is mostly equal to major dimension of the cross-section of the
same or twice of it

The --M equation:

Using the continuity equation and the fact
that the tangential velocity component
does not change across the oblique shock,
trigonometric relations eventually lead to
the --M equation which shows as a
function of M1 , and , where is the
Heat capacity ratio.
tan = 2 cot

1 1 sin 1
1 1 ( + 2 ) + 2

Geometric angle (wedge)

Angle of shock
M1 Mach number upstream of shock
Ratio of specific heats for a perfect gas

1.4 Dependent and Independent Variable(s)

The dependent variable is the mach number. The independent variable is the half wedge angle
() and the oblique shock angle ().

1.5 Methods for Measuring Each Variable

The variable here to be measured are the half wedge angle and oblique shock angle. The halfwedge angle is predetermined while construction of the wedge itself. The oblique shock angle is
determined from the picture of the schlieren image obtained on the screen.

1.6 Procedure
The compressor was run, compressing the air and storing in the high
pressure tank.
The wedge/test model was secured in place inside the test section of the
wind tunnel.
The Schlieren was setup consisting of two convex lenses, a halogen lamp, a in
hole in front of the lamp, pinhole on screen with three different colors
(instead of knife edge) and screen.
Using the regulator, the stagnation pressure was maintained at p0 = 220.6
The flow over the wedge was photographed and measurements were carried
on the photograph.

2.1 Observations

The above is the observed Schlieren image obtained on a screen of a wedge in a

supersonic flow
From the image:
The observed half-wedge angle () = 12.50
The observed angle of oblique shock () = 37.50
The value of for air from the air standard assumption = 1.4
The stagnation pressure=220.6 kPa


From the relation:

tan = 2 cot

1 1 sin 1
1 1 ( + 2 ) + 2

We have:tan 12.5 = 2 cot 37.9

1 1 37.9 sin 37.9 1

1 1 (1.4 + 2 37.9) + 2

The above expression gives the value of Mach number as M1=2.23

The stagnation pressure=220.6 kPa
Mach number normal to shock=1.369

From the shock relations,

2 2 =



We have M2 normal to shock=0.75275

M2 = 0.75275/sin (37.9-12.5) = 1.7549
Stagnation pressure relation is given as

The stagnation pressure after oblique shock = 181.81 kPa

Normal Shock is defined as the sudden change in the properties of the flow in a very
small region of space. The shock wave is perpendicular to the flow. Oblique shock is the
shock which makes an acute angle with the flow. Shock angle is the angle made by the
shock with the flow direction before encountering the shock. Deflection angle is defined
as the angle through which the flow has changed its direction after the shock.
In the present section, the shock is an attached oblique shock. The oblique shock
detaches when the half wedge angle increases beyond a certain critical angle. After this
the shock becomes a detached bow shock.
If we measure the pressure using a pitot static tube in a supersonic wind tunnel, the
reading observed would be different due to the formation of a detached shock at the
mouth of the tube. The observed reading would correspond to subsonic pressure, i.e.,
the pressure after the shock. The velocity can be obtained from the Rayleigh-Pitot
formula given as :

Where Pd is the dynamics pressure. Once this is obtained, the velocity can be obtained
by Bernoullis equation.
The normal shock relations are given as 2 2



, where p01 and p02 represent the stagnation pressures.

From the shock relations,

the Mach number after the oblique shock was found to be

M2=1.7549. The normal mach numbers obtained are M1n=1.369, M2n=0.75275.

The second throat is used in the supersonic wind tunnel to obtain a sonic condition and
thus reducing the speed to subsonic in the diffuser. This helps to reduce the power
required to maintain the supersonic wind tunnel running if it has an infinite source of
high stagnation pressure.

The errors that might have aroused due to the following possible reasons:
1. The viscosity of the air has been neglected while deriving the shock relations and
theta beta M relation. Due to this the boundary layer interaction with the shock was
ignored. Thus producing error.
2. The flow was assumed to be isentropic while using the relations for stagnation
pressure. This might not be the case while performing the experiment. Thus the values
obtained were different
3. The angles used were approximates of the actual angle produced in the oblique
shock. Furthermore there also were shock interactions with each other creating
stronger and weaker shocks, which was neglected while getting the angles or deriving
the different relationships.
4. Parallax error- This error might have aroused due to wrong placement of the camera
while taking of the photograph of the Schlieren. Thus it may have resulted in the wrong
calculation of the angles and hence wrong results.

From shock relations, we have the temperature relation as

2 + ( 1) 1 1
= [1 +
(1 1 1)]
( + 1) 1 1
Assuming that the temperature after the shock is 298K (T2),
(1 1 1)

Now taking p2 as the atmospheric pressure (101325 Pa) we have p1=50164.504 Pa.
The various other methods to measure the mach number are as follows:
1. Laser Doppler anemometry.- In its simplest and most presently used form, LDV
crosses two beams of collimated, monochromatic, and coherent laser light in the
flow of the fluid being measured. The two beams are usually obtained by splitting
a single beam, thus ensuring coherence between the two. Lasers with
wavelengths in the visible spectrum (390750 nm) are commonly used; these are
typically He-Ne, Argon ion, or laser diode, allowing the beam path to be observed.
A transmitting optics focuses the beams to intersect at their waists (the focal
point of a laser beam), where they interfere and generate a set of straight fringes.
As particles (either naturally occurring or induced) entrained in the fluid pass
through the fringes, they reflect light that is then collected by a receiving optics
and focused on a photodetector
2. Mach meter-A Mach meter is an aircraft pitot-static system flight instrument that
shows the ratio of the true airspeed to the speed of sound. Mach meters use an
altitude aneroid and an airspeed capsule which together convert pitot-static
pressure into Mach number. Modern electronic Mach meters use information
from an air data computer system.
3. Theta Beta M relation-Though this relation is not perfect , still it give a broad
overview of the actual changes in the static and stagnation pressures,
temperatures and densities.

From the experiment it can be concluded that:
The supersonic wind tunnel was operating at a mach number of 2.23
There was a formation of attached oblique shock at an angle of 39.7 degrees
from the flow direction.
The wedge angle is 25 degrees
The stagnation pressure before and after the oblique shock was found to be
220.6 kPa and it was maintained while the operation of supersonic wind


[1]Anderson, J.D., Fundamentals of Aerodynamics, 6th ed. Tata McGraw-Hill

Education equation(1),(2),(3),(4),(5),(6)
[2]Katz, J., and Plotkin, A., Low-Speed Aerodynamics, 2nd ed., Cambridge, New
York, 2001