AIRFLOW VISUALIZATION IN A MODEL GREENHOUSE G. S. Settles Gas Dynamics Laboratory, Mechanical & Nuclear Engineering Dept.

Penn State University, University Park, PA 16802 USA Keywords: Greenhouses, flow visualization, heat transfer, schlieren optics Introduction Airflow in greenhouses has been a subject of concern since the first greenhouses were built hundreds of years ago. The management of greenhouse crop temperature and moisture levels is crucial to crop survival and yield. Secondary issues such as mold growth likewise depend upon the internal airflow patterns of the greenhouse. Thus many references (e.g. 1-3) can be found in which greenhouse air circulation patterns are sketched, described, and critiqued. Where these sketches originate is unclear, but it is clear that almost no actual visualization of the subject airflow patterns is shown. This is risky, for indoor airflow patterns in structures can be quite complex and non-intuitive to the untrained. Moreover, the visualization of such flows is not difficult, except that it entails full-scale measurements away from the laboratory. An intermediate approach is to carry out model-scale flow studies in the laboratory and apply these results to the full-scale greenhouse. Only one such study has been found in the literature (4). Vardiashvili et al. used a very small model (13x17 cm) of the cross-section of a greenhouse. Even so, due to limited optical aperture they could image only the central section of this model. The small size forced them to fill their model with water rather than air in an attempt to achieve dynamic similarity with airflow in a full-sized greenhouse. Unfortunately their visual results are not very helpful in understanding practical greenhouse airflows. Here a different approach is taken: An air-filled greenhouse model of large cross-section is imaged using a schlieren optical system with an aperture of 76 cm. No attempt is made to measure quantities like airspeed or temperature, but a variety of qualitative images is obtained to illustrate typical greenhouse airflow circulation patterns. These flow visualization images, given below and in the presentation video, can be useful to greenhouse users in better understanding practical airflow patterns. Methods and Materials Schlieren Optical Technique The schlieren technique (5-8) is a classical optical means to detect small density changes in transparent media such as the atmosphere. As shown in Fig. 1, a white-light beam is collimated by a parabolic mirror, producing a parallel beam which traverses the test region where the model greenhouse is mounted. This beam is subsequently focused upon a sharp knife edge, where much of it is blocked but some light is allowed to pass, to form a projected image of the greenhouse model in the camera. Air temperature changes inside the model refract (bend) light rays, which then interact with the knife edge to form corresponding light-and-dark patterns in the schlieren image. In this way we can visualize hot and cold airflows within the model. For present purposes these patterns were videotaped. Illustrative still images were then extracted from the video. Two-Dimensional Glass Greenhouse Model The model was constructed primarily from two sheets of 76x76 cm glass of ~3mm thickness. Ordinary float glass of this sort typically has striations in one direction that are nearly invisible to the eye but

8 cm between the glass plates. 2. geometric similarity between the model crosssection and that of the actual greenhouse is assumed. it is assumed that the flows of interest are principally in the cross-sectional plane of Fig. since our principal interest is in naturallyconvecting airflows.5 cm sidewalls and a roof peak height of 48. sidewalls. and roof of the greenhouse model as shown in Fig. Wooden lattice strips were used as spacers to define the floor. Finally. Fig. Four raised benches on the greenhouse floor are also simulated. Accordingly the thickness of the model along the optical axis is quite small: only 3. 2 – Layout of model greenhouse Dynamic Similarity Considerations For the airflow in this model to correctly represent the full-scale airflow in a real greenhouse. First. The idea is to model a representative cross-section of a greenhouse in two dimensions: width and height.3 cm.show up strongly under schlieren observation. 2. rendering them invisible when the model is sharply focused on the camera image plane. No attempt is made here to represent the 3-D flows along the length of the greenhouse. the inscribed circle shows the beam aperture of the schlieren system. Second. Here the 76 cm square represents the glass plate size. and the heavier lines define the cross-section of the greenhouse model: 61 cm wide with 30. The glass must be rotated so these striations are perpendicular to the schlieren knife-edge cutoff. 1 – Diagram of “z-type” schlieren optical system with model greenhouse under observation. several conditions of dynamic similarity must be met (9). 2. but these do not obstruct the airflow and are not shown in Fig. Fig. the nondimensional Rayleigh number should be matched between the simulation and its full-scale equivalent: β ⋅ ∆T ⋅ g ⋅ L3 ⋅ ρ 2 ⋅ c p Ra ≡ µ ⋅k .

Fig. The L3 term in the Rayleigh number generally requires compensation by using a liquid rather than a gas in the scale model flow. Even so a model Rayleigh number of ~ 1010 was achieved. for example. L = characteristic length. a typical full-scale greenhouse with a 5 m height to the roof peak would have Rayleigh numbers an order of magnitude higher still. Here. Fig. the present results are not dynamically similar to full-scale greenhouse airflows. however. For example. ∆T = temperature difference. 4 illustrates the simple case of sunlight entering an otherwise constant-temperature greenhouse from above left. and k = thermal conductivity. 4 – Solar heat gain from above left. . the present visualizations as well as the full-scale greenhouse airflows are expected to be primarily turbulent. In this case a gross counterclockwise circulation is set up by thermals climbing the right sidewall and roof of the greenhouse. are warmed by it. β = volume expansion coefficient. 3 – Convection from human hand. µ= viscosity. such weak heat sources produce thermal plumes which drift upward as shown in Fig. Fig. Results and Discussion As a demonstration of the model scale and the optical sensitivity. For future studies requiring quantitative measurements. 5 shows convection from a full-sized corn plant. 3. then. g = gravity constant.Here. heat transfer from the author’s hand to the air is shown in Fig. With this level of sensitivity. and then convect away some of this thermal gain to the surrounding air. due to the relatively-large scale of the model and the fact that ∆T was exaggerated using. In an otherwise quiescent greenhouse. The greenhouse crops. However. However. Fig. ρ = density. there are sources of thermal convection in a greenhouse including the plant life itself. Nichrome heating elements to simulate solar heating. Strictly speaking. 6. Even without external heat gain or internal heaters. convenience weighed in favor of an air-filled scale model. A qualitative demonstration of airflow patterns is thus possible despite the Rayleigh-number mismatch. cp = constant-pressure specific heat. great care is required not to generate air disturbances in the laboratory that become superimposed upon the flow being studied. a properly-scaled model flow using water rather than air will be needed. since transition to turbulence in free convection happens around Ra = 109. floor and right sidewall absorb radiant heat transfer q from the sunlight.

Similar effects occur if a roof ventilation window is opened or roof glazing is missing. As illustrated in Fig. Next we examine the flow patterns created by side heating coils. (Note that vertical stratification does not show up well in these schlieren images. Cooling of the indoor air adjacent to the roof by conduction leads to unstable air stratification: dense. 8. here simulated by a cold greenhouse roof. 9. overpowering the existing warm thermals and impinging directly upon crops. These can impinge directly upon crops with possible adverse effects. 7. since the optics have no sensitivity in that direction. 6 – Simulated greenhouse crop thermals. 7 – Cold downdrafts. but then the striations of the glass plates used in the model construction obscure the airflow pattern. these coils produce thermal boundary layers traveling up the walls of the greenhouse. Fig. with the warmest air underneath the roof peak and the coolest air at the floor. As illustrated in Fig. Fig. 5 – Convection from live corn plant. The direction of sensitivity can be altered. warmer air below. a strong cold jet enters the greenhouse. Fig. as illustrated in Fig.) . Now consider the effect of cold outdoor temperatures. At the roof this convection pattern stratifies. 8 – Cold roof jet due to open window. cold air aloft and less-dense.Fig. Cold downdrafts then form.

Fig. As shown in Fig. 12. consider a heating unit placed centrally on the floor of the greenhouse. Just as likely. 10. 11 shows symmetric mixing but chaotic mixing of the warm plume with the cold air mass. 12 – Gross counterclockwise airflow circulation pattern. In particular. . 10 – Side-coil heaters with cold roof With colder outdoor temperatures the flow due to the side-coil heaters interacts with the cold greenhouse roof and walls. however. as illustrated in Fig. Finally. the raised bench to the right of the heater may become overheated. Fig. the vertical stratification is destabilized and broken up by downdrafts beneath the roof peak. and encounters colder air at the roof. is the establishment of a gross air circulation pattern within the greenhouse. 9 – Flow due to side-coil heaters. creating an overall counterclockwise circulation. no stable solution is possible. Once again. 11 – The warm-air plume from a central convection heater Fig. Here the warm plume rises on the right and cold downdrafts fall on the left. This has the disadvantage of exposing different crop areas to significantly-different air temperatures and velocities. Fig. The strong thermal plume from this device rises quickly. Fig.

G. Vardiashvili. S. ed. D. V. G. 619-626. R. The videotaped results shown in the accompanying presentation also depict the time-dependent nature of the phenomena under study. P. . North. The Greenhouse Environment. G. Intl. App. A. Washington DC:Hemisphere Press. Settles. Yang. temperature stratification. in Handbook of Flow Visualization. Schlieren and Shadowgraph Techniques. 1985. Langhans. W. the effect of a cold roof. 2. T. London:Her Majesty's Stationery Office. including solar gain. Greenhouse Operation and Management.J. A unique large-field optical system was used for this purpose. New York: Israel Program for Scientific Translations. L. 3-15. New York: Wiley. Holder. Scale modeling and flow visualization have allowed the observation of several key phenomena related to greenhouse thermal performance. W. This model study was comparatively simple and quick to set up and conduct. 1988. No. Vasiliev. 1977.A. 3rd ed. Experimental investigation of heat and mass exchange in the chamber of a model greenhouse by the method of holographic interferometry. 1980. and the plumes due to various internal heaters. 31. J. 38-42. S. it is intended to reveal the potential of scale modeling and flow visualization as a supplement to full-scale experiments and computational fluid dynamics investigations of heat and mass transfer in specific greenhouse configurations. Co. Settles. Schlieren methods. T. 2001. A. While this work is preliminary. Sharopova. 5.. 1989. W-J. Solar Energy 24. 1963. Greenhouse Management. V. 1971. and A. 4.Heat & Fluid Flow 6. Literature Cited 1. Mastalerz. 7. 6. and R. 8. Heidelberg: Springer-Verlag. W. Similar studies could be done for a wide variety of heating and ventilation problems. Schlieren methods. 6. Indoor environments. N. Ithaca.Conclusions Thermal airflows in a two-dimensional scale model of the cross-section of a greenhouse have been rendered visible by way of the "schlieren" optical technique. NPL notes on applied science no. S. Nelson. 1. 1985. Zhuravlev. Reston Pub. Colour-coding schlieren techniques for the optical study of heat and fluid flow. Settles. No. 9. Halcyon Press of Ithaca. 3. J.Y.

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