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Aerodynamics Lab II

Experiment 6
Flow visualization on Laminar flow table

Dr. Sandeep Saha
Arun Kumar Suthar
Experiment performed at:
Aerodynamics lab
Department of Aerospace Engineering
IIT Kharagpur
29 September 2016

1.1 Aim
1. The aim of this experiment is to visualize the streamlines in potential flows and flows formed
by combining the fundamental elements of potential flows.
2.To visualize streamlines past a circular cylinder and an airfoil.
1.2 Apparatus
1. Laminar flow table .
2. Dye (Ink).
3. Models (cylinder and airfoil).
1.3 Introduction
The Laminar Flow Table is an improved version of the classical Hele-Shaw apparatus with the
addition of sinks and sources. The Armfield Laminar Flow Table (figure 1 and figure 2) is
designed to simulate ideal fluid flow. The table creates two-dimensional laminar flow between
two glass plates by the combination of low fluid velocity and the narrow gap between the
plates. The resulting flow is free from turbulence and a close approximation to potential flow.
Because the flow is driven by a potential field, (i.e. a pressure gradient that exist between two
points of interest) the apparatus can be used to model some physical systems that obey
Laplaces equation.

Figure 1: Schematic diagram of Laminar flow table


Figure 2: Armfield Laminar flow table

Potential flows are the irrotational flows which describes the velocity field as the gradient of a scalar
function : the velocity potential. As a result, a potential flow is characterized by an irrotational velocity
field, which is a valid approximation for several applications.
Types of Elementary Potential flows
1.Uniform, Free Stream Flow (1D):
Velocity does not change with y-coordinate
There exists only one component of velocity which is in the x direction.
Magnitude of the velocity is .

Fig. 3 Uniform flow

The velocity potential function for uniform flow:

= +

= =

= = 0

2. Source or Sink
A flow with straight streamlines emerging from a point.
Velocity along each streamline varies inversely with distance from the point
Only the radial component of velocity is non-trivial. ( =0, =0 ).

The velocity potential function for Source flow is :



= =

Where is the volume flow rate.

= = 0

3. Vortex Flow
Fluid particles move in circles about a point.
The only non-trivial velocity component is tangential.
This tangential speed varies with radius r so that same circulation is maintained.
Thus, all the streamlines are concentric circles about a given point where the velocity along each
streamline is inversely proportional to the distance from the center. This flow is necessarily irrotational.

Fig. 5 Vortex flow


= = 0

= = ln

1.4 Theory:
Potential flows are governed by Laplaces equation, which is a linear partial differential equation. It
therefore follows that the various fundamental elements velocity potential and stream function can be
combined to form potentials and stream functions of more complex flow patterns. Thus, we can
combine fundamental elements velocity potentials or stream functions to yield streamlines that
corresponds to flow past a particular body and that combination can be used to describe the details of
the flow. This method of solving some interesting flow problems, commonly called the method of
Hele-Shaw flow is defined as Stokes flow (type of fluid flow where advective inertial forces are small
compared with viscous forces. The Reynolds number is low, i.e. Re<<1.) between two parallel flat plates
separated by an infinitesimally small gap.

Laminar flow table flow is essentially a Hele-Shaw flow. Let us consider slow uni-directional flow of an
incompressible viscous fluid occupying some domain (t), between two parallel plates fixed at a
distance h apart .
Let the velocity u of the fluid be generated from some external mechanism. We consider the NavierStokes equations, where external body forces are neglected for simplicity, i.e. fb = 0, thus
+ (u. )u = p + 2 u

. u = 0
Assuming steady flow, the first term of LHS of the first of the earlier equations is 0. Furthermore there is
no vertical motion, i.e., 3 =0
Hence momentum equations become:
1 p
+ u2
+ 2 u1
1 p
+ u2
+ 2 u2
1 p
Using order of dimension analysis we get:
2 u1
= 2
2 u1
= 2

u1 =
u2 =


1 p
(x 3 hx3 )
2 x1 3

1 p
(x 3 hx3 )
2 x2 3

Putting these values of 1 2 in the continuity equation we get

1.6 Procedure

2 = 0

The glass cover wall of the Laminar flow table was removed and wiped completely to ensure that it
would not form any bubbles when it would be placed back.
A circular geometric shape was put on the table at an appropriate spot. The height of the body was just
equal to the height the channel. This ensured that the circular shape would act as an infinitely long
cylinder in the flow.

Ink was filled in the ink chamber. It was also diluted with water, the control valve of the ink was closed
before the start of the experiment. It was also connected to the output valves.
The glass cover was placed back. The flow was started. The output ink tubes were put inside the
channel. But before the ink was discharged, it was ensured that the flow field was completely free of air
bubbles. The air bubbles were removed by sucking them with a hollow metallic pipe.
The flow was observed and photographs were taken.

2.1 Observations
1. Flow past a circular cylinder

Laminar flow past a circular cylinder

Flow past an airfoil with low angle of attack

Flow past an airfoil with high angle of attack

Flow at nearly 90 degrees of angle of attack


Flow over cylinder:

1. The flow over the cylinder is completely laminar and steady.
2. We can see a stagnation point in the front of the cylinder.
3. Clearly no eddies or vortices are seen behind the cylinder.
4. The flow is nowhere separated and the stream lines which divided into upper and lower surface of the
cylinder merge back at the rear of the cylinder.
5. The pattern remains constant for a long time which means the flow is steady.
Flow over airfoil:
1. At low angle of attack steady streamlines can be seen.
2. A steady stagnation point is seen at the leading edge of the airfoil.
3. Flow is attached all over the surface of the airfoil.
4. Effect of viscosity at the surface can easily be seen when the ink is stopped. When ink is stopped
slowly the streamlines disappear except at surface of the airfoil where the rate of diminishing of ink is
very slow due to the no slip condition at the surface.
5. As the angle of attack of the airfoil is increased we see that still there is no flow separation but we
see that the ink gets a little dispersed due to small turbulence effects.
6. Even at higher angle of attack near to 90 degrees we see that the flow tends to separate but still there
is still no sign of presence of any kind of vortices thus leading to the conclusion that the flow is viscous

3 Discussion
1. The assumptions made in the derivation of the flow inside a Hele shaw cell are:
The flow velocity perpendicular to the flow is zero due to vertical constraints.
The gradients of the flow variables with respect to the axes in the plane of the laminar flow(x
and y) table are negligible as compared to those with respect to the axis perpendicular to the
The flow is assumed steady, incompressible and body forces are neglected.
2. The major problem encountered while performing the experiment was the introduction of air bubbles
in the flow which were removed by sucking the air inside the bubbles through a thin walled tube. The
mass flow rate of the ink was sometimes non uniform.
3. In this particular case the dye line indicates both the streamlines and the streaklines as the flow is
considered to be steady and potential. The dye colour is mixed with the fluid particle and the movement
of the particle corresponds to its velocity which is tangential to its path thus showing both, the
streamlines and streaklines.

4. As the flow becomes turbulent the transverse momentum of the fluid particle increases and
randomness in motion increases and we observe thickening of the dyelines. The phenomenon
thus responsible for thickening of the dye lines is turbulence. To delay the thickening, we can
decrease the speed of the flow to make it completely laminar.
5. The Bernoullis equation cannot be used in case of this experiment as the experiment takes
place in a flow field is viscous forces dominant. As we know that the Bernoullis equation does
not take viscosity into consideration thus it cannot be used in the context of the experiment.
6. Inviscid Potential flows are characterized by their inviscid and Irrotational behavior. Inviscid
Potential flows are can be obtained on airfoil while maintaining a high Reynolds number since
at high Reynolds number the inertial forces are dominant and viscous effects negligible .
7. The experiment takes place in the region where the boundary layer has completely occupied
the width between the plates. The flow Reynolds number is sufficiently low and we see
completely laminar flow and there is no evidence of turbulence. As the Reynolds number is
increased the boundary layer gets limited to the body surface only and the viscous effects are
then bounded within this small layer. This boundary layer changes from laminar to turbulent
critical Reynolds number. The dye lines in this region expand or spread out indicating sudden
instability in the flow which indicates presence of turbulence.
[2] Katz, J. and Plotkin, A., 2001. Low-speed aerodynamics (Vol. 13). Cambridge University Press.
[3] Khalid, A.H., 2015. Free boundary problems in a Hele-Shaw cell (Doctoral dissertation, UCL
(University College London)).