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Definition of a Wind Tunnel

A wind tunnel is a specially designed and protected space into which air is drawn, or blown, by
mechanical means in order to achieve a specified speed and predetermined flow pattern at a given instant.
The flow so achieved can be observed from outside the wind tunnel through transparent windows that
enclose the test section and flow characteristics are measurable using specialized instruments. An object,
such as a model, or some full-scale engineering structure, typically a vehicle, or part of it, can be
immersed into the established flow, thereby disturbing it. The objectives of the immersion include being
able to simulate, visualize, observe, and/or measure how the flow around the immersed object affects
the immersed object.

Application of Wind Tunnel

There are many uses of wind tunnels. They vary from ordinary to special: these include uses for
Subsonic, supersonic and hypersonic studies of flight; for propulsion and icing research; for the testing of
models and full-scale structures, etc. Some common uses are presented below. Wind tunnels are used for
the following:

(i) To determine aerodynamic loads

Wind tunnels are used to determine aerodynamic loads on the immersed structure. The loads could be
static forces and moments or dynamic forces and moments. Examples are forces and moments on airplane
wings, airfoils, and tall buildings.

In our Aerodynamics lab we use load cells to calculate the drag and lift acting on the aerofoil, cylinder,
and other models.

(ii) To study how to improve energy consumption by automobiles

They can also be used on automobiles to measure drag forces with a view to reducing the power required
to move the vehicle on roads and highways.

(iii) To study flow patterns

To understand and visualize flow patterns near, and around, engineering structures. For example, how the
wind affects flow around tall structures such as sky scrapers, factory chimneys, bridges, fences, groups of
buildings, etc. How exhaust gases ejected by factories, laboratories, and hospitals get dispersed in their

(iv) Other uses include

To teach applied fluid mechanics, demonstrate how mathematical models compare to experimental
results, demonstrate flow patterns, and learn and practice the use of instruments in measuring flow
characteristics such as velocity, pressures, and torques.

Need of experiments

(i)Theory is incomplete and needs to be supplemented.

(ii) Information of fundamental nature needed in many areas.

Experimental information towards solving aerodynamic problems could be obtained in a number of ways.
Flight tests, rocket flights, drop tests water tunnels, ballistic ranges and wind tunnels are some of the ways
by which aerodynamic data can be generated. With the help of well performed experiments even
information of fundamental nature could be derived.
Wind tunnel
Majority of experimental data needed in aerodynamics is generated using wind tunnels. Wind Tunnel is a
device for producing airflow relative to the body under test. Wind tunnels provide uniform flow
conditions in their test section.
Classification of Wind Tunnels
Wind tunnels may be classified based on any of the following:
(a) Speed, Mach no
They are classified as of low speed or high speed wind tunnels .In wind tunnel parlance, high speed wind
tunnels are those operating at speeds where compressibility effects are important. They are also classified
based on the Mach number of operation as subsonic, transonic, supersonic or hypersonic wind tunnels.

Range of the Mach number , M Name of flow , or conditions

M<1 Subsonic
M=1, or near 1 Transonic
1<M<3 Supersonic
3<M<5 High supersonic
M>5 Hypersonic
M>> 5 High Hypersonic

Unit I
Layout of Open Circuit Wind Tunnels
All modern wind tunnels have four important components;

 the Effuser
 the Working or Test-section
 the Diffuser
 the Driving unit

The Effuser
This is a converging passage located upstream of the test-section. In this passage fluid gets
accelerated from rest (or from very low speed) at the upstream end of it to the required conditions at the
In general, effuser contains honey-comb and wire gauze screens to reduce the turbulence and produce an
uniform air stream at the exit. Effuser is usually referred to as contraction cone.

Model to be tested is placed here in the air-stream, leaving the downstream end of the effuser, and
the required measurements and observations are made. If the test-section is bounded by rigid walls, the
tunnel is called a closed throat tunnel. If it is bounded by air at different velocity (usually at rest), the
tunnel is called open jet tunnel. The test-section is also referred to as working-section.
The diffuser is used to re-convert the kinetic energy of the air-stream leaving the working-section
into pressure energy, as efficiently as possible. Essentially it is a passage in which the flow decelerates.

Driving Unit
If there were no losses, steady flow through the test-section could continue forever, once it is
established, without the supply of energy from an external agency. But in practice, losses do occur, and
kinetic energy
is being dissipated as heat in vorticity, eddying motion and turbulence. Moreover, as the expansion of the
diffuser cannot continue to infinity, there is rejection of some amount of kinetic energy at the diffuser
exit. This energy is also converted to heat in mixing with the surrounding air.

To compensate for these losses, energy from an external agency becomes essential for wind
tunnel operation. Since power must be supplied continuously to maintain the flow, the fourth essential
component namely, some form of driving unit is essential for wind tunnel operation. In low-speed tunnels
this usually takes the form of a fan or propeller.

The overall length of the wind tunnel may be shortened, and the rejection of kinetic energy at the
diffuser exit eliminated, by the construction of some form of return circuit. Even then the driving unit is
necessary to overcome the losses occurring due to vorticity, eddying motion and turbulence.

The skin friction at the walls and other surfaces will be large since the velocity at all points in the
circuit will be large (of the same order as the test-section velocity). Also, a construction ahead of the test–
section, is necessary if the turbulence at the test-section has to be low, and particularly if the velocity
distribution has to be uniform. To achieve this, usually guide vanes are placed in the corners.
Similarity Parameters
Geometric similarity
One of the most important requirements of models is that there should be geometric similarity between
the model and the prototype. By geometric similarity it is meant that ratios of corresponding dimensions
in the model and the prototype should be the same.

Dynamic similarity
Equally important as the geometric similarity is the requirement of dynamic similarity. In an actual flight,
when the body moves through a medium, forces and moments are generated because of the viscosity of
the medium and also due to its inertia, elasticity and gravity. The inertia, viscous, gravity and elastic
forces generated on the body in flight can be expressed in terms of fundamental units. The important force
ratios can be expressed as non dimensional numbers. For example,
Reynolds number (Re) = Inertia force/Viscous force
Mach number = Inertia force/Elastic force
Froude number = Inertia force/Gravity force
Euler's number = Inertia force / Pressure force
Weber Number = Inertia force / Surface tension force

The principle of dynamic similarity is that a scale model under same Reynolds number and Mach number
will have forces and moments on it that can be scaled directly. The flow patterns on the full scale body
and the model will be exactly similar.

It is not necessary and may not be possible that all the aforesaid non dimensional numbers be simulated
simultaneously in any experiment. Depending on the flow regime or the type of experiments, certain non-
dimensional parameters are important. For example, in a low speed flow regime, simulation of Reynolds
number in the experiments is important to depict the conditions of actual flight. In a high speed flow,
simulation of Mach number is significant. It may even be necessary and significant that more than one
non dimensional parameter are simulated.

High Speed Wind Tunnels

High-Speed Wind Tunnels

 High-speed tunnels are those with test-section speed more than 650 kmph.
 The power to drive a low-speed wind tunnel varies as the cube of the test-section velocity.
Although this rule is not valid for the high speed regime, the implication of rapidly increasing power
requirement with increasing test-section speed is true for high-speed tunnels also.
 Because of the power requirements, high-speed wind tunnels are often of the intermittent type in
which energy is stored in the form of pressure or vacuum or both and is allowed to drive the tunnel only a
few seconds out of each pumping hour.
 Even though the flow in the Mach number range from 0.5 to 5.0 is usually termed high-speed
flow, the tunnels with test–section Mach number less than 0.9 are generally grouped and treated under
subsonic wind tunnels.
 Wind tunnels with Mach numbers from 1.5 to 5.0 are classified as supersonic tunnels
 And those with Mach number more than 5 are termed hypersonic tunnels.
 The wind tunnels in the Mach number range from 0.9 to 1.5 are called transonic tunnels.

High-speed tunnels are generally grouped into intermittent and continuous operation tunnels,
based on the type of operation. The intermittent tunnels are further divided into blow down tunnels and
induction tunnels, based on type of the operational procedure.

The intermittent blowdown and induction tunnels are normally used for Mach numbers from 0.5
to about 5.0, and the intermittent pressure-vacuum tunnels are normally used for higher Mach numbers.
The continuous tunnel is used throughout the speed range. Both intermittent and continuous tunnels have
their own advantages and disadvantages.
Comparison between Intermittent and Continuous Tunnels
Hypersonic Wind Tunnel