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Flow Visualisation


To depict flow patterns around different immersed bodies

To investigate the influence of different shapes on the drag coefficient and flow
To investigate the influence of sources and sinks on the flow lines
To compare the locations of the separation point in laminar and turbulent flows
To demonstrate basic, plane potential flows using superposition principle


Visualization of fluid flow is one of the most important experiments in fluid

mechanics. This is because this experiment enables to see general pattern of fluid flow when
it collide with other several objects. Scientist and engineers use mathematical models to
predicts data occur in real world such as force, velocity, diameter and others. Flow
visualisation is one of the effective and concise method to achieve this goal.Three types of
line patterns, streamline, pathline, streakline and timeline used to visualise flow which
distinct only when the fluid flow change with time. However, under steady state condition,
the lines are identical. The patterns of line include:

Streamline : A line which tangential and perpendicular to the instantaneous local velocity
vector. These represent the direction in which a massless fluid element will
travel at any point in time.
Streakline : Locus of particles which have earlier passed continuously through a
particular spatial point.
Pathline : Actual path travelledby an individual fluid particle over some period.

Fluid particles possesses accelerate motion as travel from one location to another in the
flow field. The convection acceleration terms of fluid flow is varnished when flow passes
through an obstacle depend on the particular geometry shape and results laminar or turbulent,
flow separations or secondary flows. Reynolds number (Re) defined as the ratio of inertia
force and viscous or friction force is to investigate the type of flow. When viscous forces
dominates resulting in flow characterized by smooth and well-ordered streamlines known as
laminar, however excessive inertia tends to disrupt organized resulting in turbulent flow.

Moreover, when the flow passes a parallel plane surface, drag force is exerted on the
surface due to flow characteristic, viscous pressure and shear stress forces on the object
surface. A high Reynold number (Re) with high velocity flow tends to provide significant
drag produce on the body. Drag on a section of body is depended on the orientation of the
surface. Drag coefficient is a dimensions quantity comprises the effect of skin friction and
form drag introduced to study the drag produce by the dynamic pressure on different type of
area and size. Generally, the more blunt the body, the larger the drag coefficient, and the
higher degree the flow separation. The drag coefficient for an ellipse with the characteristic
area either the frontal area, A = bD, or the planform area, A = bl is shown in Figure 1.

In short, factors that influence the surface drag:

1. Cross sectional area of object

2. Smoothness of object
3. Properties of fluid
4. Relative Velocity of object
5. Flow characteristic of object
Figure 2 : Type of radial flow

According to Figure 2 represent a radial flow. A source flows is radially outward and sink
flows is radially inward from a line through the origin perpendicular to the x-y plane. A
source flow is normally occurs at the beginning of smooth, hemisphere surface while sink
flow is at the rear part. The velocity of each streamline decreases with distance from the point.
In contrast, sink flow flows radially inward through an origin.

The location of flow separation, the width of the wake region behind a circular
cylinder and the pressure distribution on the surface depend on the nature of the boundary
layer flow as shown in figure 3 . Wake region differs with different type of boundary layer

Figure 3 : The streamline patterns when a flow past a object

Potential flow describes the inviscid, incompressible, irrotational flow fields satisfies
Laplaces equation with the combination of basic velocity potentials and stream functions.
The elementary of basic plane potential flows include sink and source flow. In inviscid flow
field, no flow through the boundary or the streamline, any streamline is considered as a solid
boundary and the condition along it is equal. Method of superposition is used when
combination of basic velocity potentials and stream functions which will lead to a particular
body shape that can describe in detail the flow around the body.
Two example of basic, plane potential flows are Rankine half-body( figure 4) which involves
the combination of a uniform flow and a source flow. Meanwhile, Rankine oval (figure 5) is
obtained from the combination of source, sink and uniform flow.

Figure 4 : Flow Field of Rankine Half-body Figure 5 : Flow Field of Rankine Oval


The apparatus demonstrates flow visualization by using water flow and colored dye
medium. The size and shape of the unit mounts on top of the basic hydraulic bench. The
experiments can be done with different drag bodies. Dye ink is injected into a flow chamber
via fine nozzles. The chamber is covered with a glass panel which allows the observation of
the flow lines. With eight additional holes, sources and sinks can be simulated. The analogy
to potential field theory can be clearly demonstrated by variation of experiment. The water
flow rate and the amount of ink injected can be adjusted using regular valves.

Figure 6 : Apparatus setup

Labelling list :
A = Water supply inlet port (from basic hydraulic bench) F = Dye injector
B = Test specimen G = Inlet control valve
C = Drain port with end plug H = Dye container
D = Adjustable leveling feet I = Drain control valve
E = Drain port

Item needed:
Item Description *Item Category Quantity estimation (e.g.
per set/group of student)
Flow Visualization Apparatus E 1
Ink or Color Dye C 1

*Item Category
SP Sample or Specimen
C Consumable
CH Chemical
W Labware, Glassware, Tool and Components
E Equipment
S Software

1. The adjustable levelling feed (D) is adjusted such a way that the front part of the
apparatus is slightlyhigher than the rear part of the apparatus. The water supply inlet
port is connected to the hydraulic bench water supply hose.
2. Water hoses from both of the drain ports (E) are connected to the hydraulic bench
tank. The by-pass valve of the hydraulic bench is ensured to be full opened. The inlet
control valve (G) and drain control valve (I) of the apparatus are ensured to be fully
3. The dye container (H) is filled with color dye. The valve under the container is
opened to allow the color dye flows to the dye injector (F).
4. The by-pass valve of the hydraulic bench is slowly regulated until there is water
supply coming out from the inlet control valve (G). (Reminder: Low water flow rate
is required to carry out the experiment). The dye is ensured to be injected out from
the dye injector.
5. The desired specimen (B) is placed on the flat surface of the apparatus. The control
valve (G,I) are adjusted for desired water flow pattern.
6. The dye injector is placed to the water source area. The valve below the dye container
is regulated to control the dye concentration. The flow pattern is captured using a
camera or hand phone camera.
7. The experiment is repeated with different test specimen. The flow pattern is compared
for different type of test specimen.
8. For sinking effect experiment, one of the drain port end plug (C) is removed.
1) Uniform flow :

Figure 1A: Circular cylinder Specimen Figure 1B: Aerofoil Specimen

Figure 1C: Square Specimen

2) Rankine half-body (Source Flow + Uniform Flow)

Figure 2A: Without Immersed body

Figure 2B: Circle Specimen Figure 2C: Aerofoil Specimen

3) Rankine Oval (Source Flow +Sink Flow+ Uniform Flow)

Figure 3A: Without Immersed Body

Figure 3B: Circle Specimen Figure 3C: Aerofoil Specimen


Figure 4A: Streamline pattern when a flow past a circular cylinder .Retrieved from:
Figure 4A show that the ideal case of a streamline pattern suppose to have when fow
past a circular cylinder. As compare to the experimental streamline pattern as showed in
figure 1A that had done, the flow of fluid that starts to separate at the stagnation point which
past through a cylinder is nearly perpendicular to the flow with the condition that the fluid is
inviscid. It shows a slight angle and uneven flow at the rear part of the cylinder which is
difference from the perfect streamlines patterns( figure 4A). When flow over a strongly
curved surface, the strong adverse (positive) pressure gradient is formed. Hence, it formed a
larger boundary layer after the separation and directly formed a greater wake region in figure
1A. This is because the inertia effect consider small relative to the viscous and pressure
forces when the flow is at low Reynolds numbers (Re < 1) . The flow is unstable and unable
to adjust to the increase of pressure and then separate from the surface cause by the
insufficient momentum exchanges takes. (Bakker. A, 2002).For turbulent flow, the ideal
streamline patterns shows contours and zig zag flow as shown in figure 4B.2.Thus, it is hard
to visualise the streamline patterns in experimental result. Fluid will undergo irregular
fluctuation and change in magnitude and direction when the flow is at high Reynolds number
(Re > 1).

Experimental Ideal case (figure 4B.2)

Retrieved from


Figure 4B :Streamline patterns when a flow past a circular cylinder in turbulent flows .
Drag coefficient is a dimensionless quantity that measure the drag or resistance of an
object in a fluid environment. Below show the drag coefficient formula:

= 1

where : =Drag Force; = Drag Coefficient ; = Cross sectional area (Frontal Area) ;

v=Velocity of fluid

A drag force is usually divided into two components: frictional drag and pressure drag.
Frictional drag (viscous drag) comes from friction between the fluid and the surfaces over
which it is flowing while pressure drag comes from the eddying motions that are set up in the
fluid by the passage of the body. The shape of the body determines whether the flow is
dominated in frictional drag or pressure drag. For streamlined body, frictional drag is the
dominant source of the flow while for a bluff body, pressure drag dominates in the fluid
flow.For a given frontal area and velocity, a streamlined body will always have a lower
resistance than a bluff body such as cylinder and square specimen . For drag coefficient, it
also varies with different type of shapes as shown in figure 4C. Objects that are blunt have
higher drag coefficient compared to objects that have more aerodynamic shape.

Figure 4C .Drag coefficients of blunt and streamlined bodies.

In figure 1A and figure 1C,the circular cylinder specimen and the square specimen
which are blunt objects has higher drag coefficient than the aerofoil shape specimen which
consider to be low angle of attack in figure 1B. Hence, the blunt objects have greater wake
region. The bigger the wake region, the higher the pressure drag on the specimen. For objects
that are not sufficiently streamlined, flow separation has to be considered. Flow separation is
the sudden thickening or breakaway of the boundary layer from the surface, resulting in a
thick trailing wake. Streamlined body which related to the surface area exposed to the flow
usually do not experience flow separation. Therefore, bluff bodies exhibit much larger drag
force than the comparably-sized streamlined bodies.

Figure 4D: Flow separation of streamlined and bluff bodies.

When a source flow is present in uniform flow field, Rankine half-body is formed and
a stagnation point is created between this two basic flows. Besides, when source and sink
flow is appeared in the uniform flow, a Rankine oval is formed with two stagnation points.
Figure 2A shows the example of Rankine half-body while figure 3A shows the example of
Rankine oval but it assumes that it is inviscid flow and ideal case. If the specimens placed
between the source flow and sink flow as shown in figure 2B,2C,3B and 3C, it no longer
inviscid flow and it will formed a boundary layer and wake region.

Figure 4E: The flow around a Rankine half body and Rankine oval
uniform flow
source flow

sink flow
Figure 4F: Comparison of Figure 2A (left) with Figure 3A (right)
The superposition principle stated that the combination of two velocity fields has the
effect of combining the relevant stream functions.In Figure 2A,it shows the results for
Rankine half-body while in Figure 3A shows the Rankine Oval. Rankine half-body involves
the superposition of a uniform flow and a source flow. For this, stagnation point will be
located at somewhere before the source flow. Stagnation point is the point on the body where
both the velocity components are zero as magnitude of velocity for uniform flow cancel up
with magnitude of velocity for source flow. Rankine oval involves the superposition of
uniform flow, source flow and sink flow. Generally, the uniform flow passed through from
the source to the sink and so the net volume outflow from the oval is always zero. Moreover,
we can also replace the streamlines curve with a similar shape object and thus the outside
flow can correspond to the flow about the body. Furthermore, the fluid can be assumed to be
potential as the viscosity is low. The viscosity can be observed near the surface of the

Though used extensively, these methods suffer from some problems. A fluid flow is
often affected by the experimental technique, and not all fluid flow phenomena or relevant
parameters can be visualized with experimental techniques. Also, the construction of small
scale physical models, and experimental equipment such as wind tunnels are expensive, and
experiments are time consuming.

Why aerofoil shape is used in designing wing structureon aeroplanes? The wings
provide lift when theres a pressure difference between the upper part and the lower part of
wing. If theres more pressure below the wing than higher than the wing, then theres a net
upwards force, creating lift and wing tip vortices. When the angle of attack becomes very
large, the lift/drag ratio decreases due to the increase in drag. This is because of the
separation points above and below the object becoming further apart, enlarging the wake
region thus creating more drag. The separation point above the object becomes too close to
the stagnation point and eventually turbulent air is created above the object, significantly
decrease the lift/drag ratio to the point of an aerodynamic stall.

Few precautions should be aware to minimize the error. Ink injection techniques are
difficult to apply, because the use of ink injector would disturb the flow significantly. There
are few issues of concern: the disturbance introduced by the dye injection tube, the density of
dye has to be close to that of the working fluid, the velocity of the dye should be smaller but
comparable to the flow velocity to minimize the disturbance. Therefore, injection of ink
should be done more carefully. Flow is not uniform, therefore we cannot assume it is steady
state. Hard to control the flow velocity, volume and direction. It is hard to make sure the
space after the object is fully filled.Prevent the water to overflow the object so that the
streamline will not be affected.


Flow is not uniform as the valve is controlled manually, so hereby we suggest the
injection of flow is controlled by equipment with digital data. With this, more parameter can
be calculated. Besides that, the injection of ink should have proper equipment to do so. To
prevent any waste of ink and irregular amount of injection. If equipment is used, then it is
possible to control the time interval between each injection.

There are few available techniques to conduct this experiment more efficiently. For
example, electrolytic techniques only need a small and thin electrode in the fluid. A well-
known technique is the hydrogen bubble technique. This technique is based on the
electrolysis of water. When electrodes are inserted in the fluid and a voltage is applied to the
electrodes, hydrogen bubbles are formed at the cathode and oxygen bubbles are formed at the
anode. By isolating some parts of the electrodes and by varying the voltage level, all kinds of
combinations of time and streak lines can be obtained

As conclusion, the flow pattern of eight shapes and ten different immersed bodies is
studied. It can clearly see that for rear part of rectangular (curve side), triangle (1 side) and
square with bluff body without flow of fluid due to formation of lower pressure wake region
that reduce the drag. A blunt and streamlined body such as circular cylinder, droplet, aerofoil,
oval, triangle (2 sides), rectangle(edge side) tends to have higher drag force when streamline
is formed at the rear side. When fluid flow at the front of curvy surface, it is sources flow line
while sinks flow line for curve rear surface. Moreover, the separation point of laminar flow
through a particle tends to at the front of the bodies due to adverse pressure gradient and
cause high value of drag. The turbulent flow of fluid helps resist adverse pressure gradient
and separation point is normally at the rear part of the bodies.


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