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Study of subsonic wind tunnel and its calibration

Pratik V. Dedhia∗
IIST, Thiruvananthapuram, Kerala, 695547, India

The objective of the experiment is to study the subsonic wind tunnel and its components
and calibrate the subsonic wind tunnel by measuring the velocity profile in the test-section.

ρair density of air kg/m3
ρethanol density of ethanol kg/m3
Re Reynolds number
g gravity in m/s2
µ viscosity of air in Pas
V Freestream velocity
P Pressure in N/m2
Patm Atmospheric pressure in pa

I. Introduction
The experiment aims at studying and calibrating a subsonic wind tunnel in the sense drawing a rela-
tionship between the fan speed and Re. Mean flow velocity will be calculated at different fan speeds and a
linear relation will be drawn between the two using least square fit using the dicrete data obtained during
the measurements. Also variation of Reynolds number with fan speed will be plotted. Variation of velocity
in the transverse direction of the test section will be checked. And finally, losses in the section inlet to
wiremesh, contraction section will be computed and a rough estimate of power required to run the wind
tunnel at various speed will be obtained.

II. Theory
A subsonic wind tunnel and its components are shown in figure 1. The role of each components of the
wind tunnel are as follows.

A. Inlet and Fan

A bellmouth inlet in generally preferred at the the entry of the suction type wind tunnel. In suction type
a fan is placed at the end to draw air into the wind tunnel using suction by creating a low pressure at the
exit. Due this surrounding air is drawn into the wind tunnel via inlets. Now if a blunt edge inlet is used it
will cause flow seperation and will give rise to instabilities. Hence for smooth flow round bellmouth inlets
are used.

B. Settling chamber
Settling chamber further consists of two components, honeycomb structure and screen.
∗ student, Aerospace Engineering, Indian Institute of Space Science and Technology, SC15M001.

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Figure 1. Sketch of Subsonic windtunnel and its components

1. Honeycomb structure
Honeycomb structure consists of long cylindrical, square or hexagonal tubes of size 6-8 mm. This arrangement
help in damping aany swirl present in the flow. It helps in removing any angularity in the flow, thus allowing
only unidirectional flow.

2. Screen
A screen is made of either wire mesh or perforated plate. Honeycomb straightens the flow but it does not
affect the velocity distribution in transcerse direction. Screen is used to remove tranverse velocity variation
and make flow much more uniform.

The pressure loss due the settling chamber is high and is proportional to square of flow velocity, hence it
is placed it that section of the wind tunnel where the velocity is minimum i.e. just after the inlet.

C. Converging nozzle
In subsonic wind tunnel, flow is accelerated using a convergent nozzle. It is usually placed after the settling
chamber to get a uniform, irrotational flow at its inlet which will ultimately lead to uniform, irrotational
high velocity at its exit.

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D. Testsection
It is that region of the wind tunnel where provision for mounting model and other measuring probes are
present. It is that section where the model can be tested. The test section can either be straight or diverging.
Diverging testsections are used to decrease the horizontal bouyancy arising because of boundary layer.

E. Diffuser
Diffuser is placed after the test section to convert the flow kinetic energy to pressure energy. In this manner
it recovers the pressure head and prevents it from getting lost in kinetic energy. This considerably reduces
the power requirements for fan, and only losses are left to be compensated.

F. Measurement device
This is one of the most important component of wind tunnel because it helps acquiring the data. Manometer
shown in the figure is one such device which measures pressure in terms of height. This pressure can be used
to measure the flow velocity and hence reynolds number. This is explained below.

P1 = Patm + ρethanol g (href − h1 ) sinθ

2(Po − P1 )
V =

q = (ρair V 2 )/2

ρair V c
Re =

III. Experimental setup

A subsonic wind tunnel with all the components described as above are setup with fan along with its
speed adjustment unit at the exit.A pitot-static tube along with the transverse movement mechanism is fitted
in the test section to measure the stagnation and static pressure. Also manometer probes are connected in
the wiremesh region and at the exit of the converging nozzle, to measure the pressure loss. Manometer tubes
are inclined at 30 degrees to achieve more precise measurements. Since it is a suction type wind tunnel, the
stagnation pressure is atmospheric pressure.

IV. Data collection

The wind tunnel was operated under 6 different fan speeds starting from 450 with increment of 50, hence
6 different Reynolds number. Pressure head in the wiremesh region and at the exit of the nozzle were measure
along with the pitot-static tube pressure heads. Also at 750 rpm, pressures were measured for pitot tube
placed at different heights along the transverse direction of testsection.

V. Data Interpretation
The next task after collecting data is to interpret it and arrive at our objective using suitable physi-
cal and mathematical logic. Here, we obtained all the measurement in terms of the height of the fluid in
manometer which needs to be converted into absolute pressure that will ultimately lead us to our objective
viz. estimating variation of meanflow velocity, RE with fan speed, lossed and power requirement for diiferent
fanspeed. One sample calculation is shown below to give an idea of how the results were achieved.

Ex. At 850 rpm, θ = 30 degree and h1(stag) = 9.7 cm

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Patm = 101300 N/m2
href = h3 = 8.9 cm Absolute pressure at point 1 ,

P1 = Patm + ρethanol g (href − h1 ) sin30

P1 = 101300 + 789 . 9.81 (.089 − 0.097) sin30

P1 = 101269 N/m2
Similarly calculating pressure at point 2 to get freestream pressure,

P2 = 101141.32 N/m2
Calculating freestream velocity using,
2(P1 − P2 )
V =

V = 14.46 m/s

ρair V
unitRe =
unitRe = 892000

VI. Results
A. Empirical correlation between fan speed and mean flow velocity using least square fit
Table 1 shows the values obtained after calculation

Table 1. Fan speed and its corresponding meanflow velocity

Fan speed(X) Mean flow velocity(Y)

450 7.124
550 9.081
650s 10.979
750 12.593
850 14.469
950 16.128

XY − X Y
m= P P
n X 2 − ( X)2
Y −m X
y = mx + b
After substituting the values following correlation was ontained. The results are plotted in figure 2

y = 0.017942 ∗ x − 0.8301

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Figure 2. Variation of Meanflow velocity in the test section with Fan speed. The points almost lie on the
straight line and can be infered that mean flow velocity vary linearly with the fan speed

Figure 3. The variation Re with Fan speed. It can be inferred from plot that Re and Fan speed followa a
linear relationship.

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B. Variation of Unit Reynolds no. with fan speed
Unit Reynolds number were calculated for different fan speed. A plot of variation of Re of the wind tunnel
with fan speed is shown in figure 3.

C. Velocity distribution in transverse direction in test section

From the pressure measurements obtained from the manometer, velocity was found at an interval of 20mm
in the transverse direction of the test section. The variation of velocity along the transverse direction in the
test section is plotted in figure 4.

Figure 4. Variation of velocity in transverse direction. The velocity almost remain constant as depicted by
the graph indicating the effectiveness of the settling chamber.

D. Losses and power requirement for running wind tunnel at various fan speed.
The variation of losses happening from inlet to wiremesh and in the contraction section with the fan speed
is plotted in figure 5 and 6 respectively. Also the variation power requirement for running the wind tunnel
at various speeds is shown in figure 7.

VII. Conclusion
Subsonic Wind tunnel and its various components were studied thoroughly and Wind tunnel was cali-
brated successfully.

VIII. Acknowledgement
The experiment was guided by Prof. Vinoth B R and Ms Prashanthi G. Lab assitant Nasarudeen helped
in the operation of the wind tunnel. Extended support was provided in measuring the datas by colleagues
Ninish S. and Chirag S.

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Figure 5. Variation of mesh loss with fan speed. The losses in the section from inlet to wiremesh increases
almost linearly with fan speed

Figure 6. Variation of contraction loss with fan speed. The variation resembles second order polynomial but
can be approximated as linear at lower fan speeds

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Figure 7. Variation of power/testsection-area with fan speed. Curvefitting tool in Matlab using least square
fit indicated that cubic relationship holds good for this data plot.

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