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For updated coverage of this subject please see Settles, G. S., Schlieren and Shadowgraph Techniques, SpringerVerlag, 2001, ISBN 3-540-66155-7, http://www.mne.psu.edu/psgdl/schlierbookwebpage.html
Full-Scale Schlieren Flow Visualization
Gary S. Settles†, Elizabeth B. Hackett†, James D. Miller†, and Leonard M. Weinstein‡ †Gas Dynamics Lab, Mechanical Engineering Dept., Penn State University, University Park, PA 16802 USA ‡NASA Langley Research Center, MS 493, Hampton, VA 23681 USA Introduction The schlieren technique [1-3] holds a special place in flow visualization because it produces a natural, easily-interpretable image of refractive-index-gradient fields. It is more sensitive than its companion the shadowgraph, and better suited to qualitative visualization than its cousin the interferometer. In its three centuries of existence it has found use in an amazing number of applications across the breadth of science and technology. Perhaps more often than any other type of scientific imagery, schlieren photographs have also been regarded as works of art. However, schlieren instruments have traditionally been limited in field-of-view by the cost of large, high-quality optics. This limit occurs for lenses above a few cm in size. The parabolic mirrors of the largest conventional schlieren systems, found at major wind tunnel labs, provide a field-of-view up to about a meter in diameter, but these are seldom available for general use. Thus, to visualize most sizable phenomena by schlieren, scale-model studies have been required . However, the fabrication of accurate scale models and the need to achieve the correct dynamic scaling of fluid flow and heat transfer has often interfered with this approach. Moreover, a range of important problems such as fire spreading , heating, ventilating and air conditioning (HVAC), and the thermal plume of the human body, to name a few, stubbornly refuse to comply with any practical scale-modeling scheme. For these reasons there has been a serious field-of-view mismatch between available schlieren optics and some key phenomena which one might wish to visualize. The present paper reviews several approaches in response to this problem. Optical Principles In some of the cases just mentioned, large conventional schlieren systems can provide a sufficient "window" with which to see significant segments of full-scale flows. One such approach using a single large mirror is described later in this paper. Unconventional schlieren arrangements with large light sources were pioneered by Schardin  in the 1940's. These arrangements are fundamentally different from the Toepler method , which expands the schlieren beam from a small light source in all cases. Schardin described several schlieren arrangements which have extensive light sources, small lenses, and a resulting field-of-view roughly half the size of the light source. In his schlieren method number 4, sketched in Fig. 1, a large source grid consisting of dark and bright lines is imaged by a lens upon the cutoff plane, where light is blocked by a corresponding negative grid. In a separate set of conjugate optical planes the test area is imaged upon the image plane by the same lens. The cutoff grid thus serves as a schlieren stop, preferentially passing any irregular light rays which are refracted by disturbances in the test area. The illumination is inherently non-parallel as a consequence of the extended light source. Such grid-type schlieren instruments were set up at benchtop scale by Burton  and by Kantrowitz and Trimpi  in the 1940's. Since then the use of grid-type focusing schlieren has
one problem: for a perfectly-coincident system one wants a mirror of spherical figure rather than the parabola which was available. thus producing spherical aberration of equal magnitude but opposite sign to the difference between the actual parabolic mirror and the desired spherical figure. to see the turbulent flow from a truck exhaust stack while driving. Some attempts in the interim may well have been thwarted by the extreme care necessary in the photographic preparation of the cutoff grid. Uniform-field schlieren imagery is made possible by this means. while the remaining optical components of Fig. this schlieren effect is simple and common enough to be naturally visible when refractive disturbances pass between the eye and the horizon. This sometimes allows one. It is based upon an f/4 parabolic mirror of one meter diameter obtained from government surplus. though its overall dimensions become quite large. Thus. either natural or artificial light-dark boundaries can be used in the manner of Fig. and retina of the eye. whence it is deflected by a beamsplitter to image the light source upon a schlieren cutoff followed by a focusing lens and camera. 2 to realize large indoor or huge outdoor schlieren visualizations. The light-dark boundary of the horizon then serves as a light source at a distance. There is. it is nonetheless feasible to construct a schlieren system according to Fig.been sporadic and its employment for large fields-of-view has not occurred at all until the recent work of Weinstein . The beam which illuminates the mirror is thus ideally returned along the same optical path. distant light-dark boundary upon a single knife edge. 2 yields schlieren sensitivity mostly along a line through the test area rather than generally across it. Instead. Moreover. but rather by the allowable size of the source grid and the axial distance available in which to set up the optical train. The disadvantage of having to scan to obtain a complete schlieren image is offset by the simplicity of the light source compared to the grid-type system described earlier. A practical realization of this is discussed later in this paper. of some kilometers. Overall. In fact. 2 are provided by the lens. this optical arrangement is usual for single-mirror schlieren systems. Optical formulae for a grid-type schlieren system are given by Weinstein . iris. This is the equivalent of having only a single large gridline in the source and a single corresponding gridline in the cutoff plane of the system of Fig. For present purposes note only that the maximum size of the test area is not limited by the lens aperture. a parallel-light schlieren system is not possible. 1. 1 with a field-of-view much larger than any conventional schlieren. Of course. 2. L. for example. A closely-related approach for full-scale schlieren visualization. uses a lens to image a large. the light source is placed on the mirror centerline at its 8 m effective radius of curvature. This problem was fortunately solved by Dall [9. but that drawback can be removed by scanning the line of sensitivity across the field of view while recording an image. without which the visualization tends to be disappointing. as in conventional schlieren arrangements. the approach of Fig. as illustrated in Fig. If deliberately exploited. A simple plano-convex "corrector" lens of appropriate diameter and focal length is inserted in the schlieren beam after the light source.10] for the Foucault testing of telescope mirrors. and are not repeated here. some mobile test subjects naturally lend themselves to this sort of optical traverse. Schardin's  system number 5. 3. 2 . Since only one mirror is available. 1-Meter Double-Pass Coincident Schlieren System The most conventional of the full-scale schlieren techniques reviewed here is the double-pass coincident system shown in Fig. An example of a schlieren system for visualizing the flow about aircraft in flight is described later in this paper. and is amply described in the literature [1-3]. however.
3 .6 arcsec. Many color schlieren images  and videotapes have been taken with this equipment over the last decade. An estimate of the minimum detectable schlieren deflection ε at 50% knife-edge cutoff is found from Weinstein's  Eqn. and bow wave of a bullet being fired from a 22-caliber rifle . 1 to be 0. an instantaneous image of a human cough in progress. wake. weak air currents along the entire optical path become visible. was eventually met by obtaining the use of a 12. where particulate contamination becomes trapped. 5. It first became clear during a discussion among the authors in August. The thermal plume of the human body has been a fascinating subject for full-scale schlieren visualization since the work of Lewis. Similar observations have been made for sandblasting nozzle flows . The initial challenge. There is untapped potential here to better understand indoor air quality issues involving human motion and pollutant transport by the human thermal plume .1 m high by 2. However. Fig. . since direct visual observation belies its true character. The downflow suppressed the body plume. The hot supersonic jet produced by this equipment spreads rapidly and vigorously entrains the surrounding air. A beamsplitter is used to fold the optical axis parallel to the opposite wall. the schlieren system we designed uses a large front-lit retroreflective source grid mounted against one wall of the building. This visualization was critical to understand the process . finding suitable housing.As a consequence of its long focal length and the doubling of sensitivity caused by double passage of the light beam through the test area. 1993. thus gaining several meters of effective length. 8). given a building of sufficient size. 6 shows a human subject wearing cleanroom garments in a typical ½ m/sec cleanroom ventilation downflow .67 m wide. J. Miller is shown operating a combustion-driven "HVOF" thermal spray torch used to apply metallic coatings to surfaces. 8 shows the instantaneous muzzle blast. 9. the camera shutter open.7 m (40'x45') Penn State building formerly used for fruit storage. Fig. has appeared in scores of publications worldwide as an illustration of airborne disease spread. In Fig. 1 which would be by far the largest indoor schlieren system in the world. From these visualizations. taken using the apparatus of Fig. or about 7x9 feet. but had the undesirable effect of creating a recirculation region between the upper body and the work table. Fig. which is more than seven times larger than the field-of-view of the mirror schlieren system described earlier. A 10 cm diameter f/6 flat-field aerial camera lens produces a cutoff grid size of 20x25 cm (8"x10") and an image plane of about the same size (dictated by the available size of photographic film). five examples are now given which emphasize the use of the apparatus to reveal full-scale flows. that it was feasible.2 x 13. the limited size of this building required some optical design compromises. The maximum test area of this apparatus is a rectangle 2. this is inherently a high-sensitivity schlieren apparatus. to construct an apparatus according to Fig. 7. As the knife-edge is advanced. D. there were many more which we wished to do but lacked sufficient field-of-view. Such photos are taken using the apparatus of Fig. As shown by the top view in Fig. 4 is an image of the plume of a girl standing in profile. et al. Finally. 3 with the laboratory darkened. and the microsecond stroboscopic light source triggered by a microphone (visible near the bottom of Fig. 3 . 2x3-Meter Grid-Type Schlieren System Despite the full-scale studies done with the large conventional schlieren system just described. Fig.
Current values range from 10:1 at the center of the image to 4:1 at the edges. and its second major challenge. later improved to 15:1 . should thus be regarded as intermediate results rather than illustrations of the best results obtainable with this system. yielding razor-sharp large-format photographs.08 mm-wide vertical black gridlines spaced 5. The 2. and coated by Evaporated Metal Films Corp.) At present the full-scale schlieren reveals the human thermal plume to visual observation and in the original photos. 2. leaving considerable room for improvement in uniformity of source grid illumination and cutoff grid quality. The grid image is brought into sharp focus in the cutoff plane under continuous illumination from the incandescent "modeling light" of the flash-head. (The grid-type schlieren system of Alvi et al. which is not spectacular sensitivity. was the frontilluminated source grid. Obtaining a high-quality cutoff grid is the final and most important challenge to be met in a grid-type schlieren system. conical diffuser was made of frosted Mylar and fitted over the reflector for more even source grid illumination.7 m wide test area (See Fig. A 70 deg. which result from digital scanning and image processing of the original photos. The present images. Our cutoff grid is held rigidly between glass plates in a plate holder with vernier adjustments perpendicular to the gridlines and along the optical axis. A 35 x 51 x 2. but it does not reproduce well here.4 m gridline template on photographic film. 2 x 2. The image plane is either observed on a ground-glass screen with continuous lighting or flash-photographed using a Polaroid 20 x 25 cm film back.3 m in size at locations nearer the lens.2 x 2.9 arcsec.1 m high by 2. It was made necessary by the limited size of the building. This yields a photographic negative grid with 21 gridlines/cm.2 m depth-of-field. and patience at this stage. A 20x25 cm sheet of Kodalith film is then exposed in the cutoff plane by a flash discharge. and has roughly a 1. which has a high optical flatness requirement. Two other test areas are also available.8 x 2. but required ten times more flash energy.A key element of this new schlieren system. was fabricated for us by Sydor Optics Inc.4 m above the concrete floor. regardless of size. Solid.5 mm in the test area. All grid-type schlieren systems.4 m x 2. polished to one wavelength per 2. More cutoff can be used.08 mm apart. requiring that the optical axis be folded. The desired accuracy went beyond normal highway-sign silkscreening practice.  initially had an inadequate 6:1 extinction ratio.5 cm and coated for 50% reflectance on its front face and anti-reflection on its back face. This material is mounted to 12 1. is centered 2. 4 .5 cm glass beamsplitter. persistence. an estimate of the minimum detectable schlieren deflection ε at 50% knife-edge cutoff is found to be 7. uniform black gridlines and unclouded clear gridlines are an absolute necessity for good schlieren sensitivity. The next challenge we faced was the beamsplitter. Upon the retroreflective material are silkscreened 5. The image resolution is estimated to be 1. Polaroid photographs have been made using Type 809 color film (ISO 80) or Type 803 black-and-white film (ISO 800).5 m and 1. 60125 J of flash energy was typically required for the photographic exposures described below.5 mm aluminum sign panels which are assembled on a frame. Oblique frontlighting of solid objects in the test area was done using two additional flash-heads driven by the same power supply. Per Weinstein's  Eqn. It is made of white 3M retroreflective highway-sign material Type 3970-G. Videography is also done from the ground-glass with the aid of a Fresnel lens. require attention. Source grid lighting is had from a Calumet PS4N studio flash unit having a a 3 kW power supply and a Series 2 flash-head with a 24 cm diameter reflector. but sensitivity is ultimately limited by the "extinction ratio" of image-plane luminance at 0% cutoff to that at 100% cutoff.2 x 2. 9) lies midway between the source grid and lens. and was eventually met using a special direct-emulsion photographic silkscreen process based on a precise 1.
The release of gasoline vapor while filling an automobile fuel tank could similarly be visualized by full-scale schlieren. turbulence. and heat transfer affect the safety and quality of our indoor environment . Ventilation texts illustrate the "throw.We endeavored to photograph some examples with which to explore the capabilities of the system and vaunt its potential. shown in the inset of Fig. and is adjusted to maintain the image of the aircraft fixed while scanning the masked edge of the sun across it to record the schlieren field.. The schlieren stop is a mask. Finally. In Fig. The first of these is Fig. Fig. The telescope drive maintains the sun's image fixed with respect to the mask while an aircraft is flown across the sun as seen by the telescope. Comparing Fig. such as the interaction of convective heat transfer from equipment with the people using that equipment. the edge of the sun against the sky is used as a light source. as can the exhaust stream of an automobile or the chainsaw shown in Fig. 14. Fig. 17 with Fig. This exemplifies possible studies of fire spread and fire safety. The practicality of this approach was demonstrated by Weinstein in Dec. The portable electric heater at the lower left produces a thermal plume which is typical of those from forced-air heating systems. discussed earlier. are useful to gain a better understanding of how airflow. Schlieren for Aircraft in Flight Weinstein  first realized the potential of Schardin's schlieren method number 5 using a specially-fitted telescope. and a 16 mm streak camera records an image and provides the necessary scanning. illustrates the potential for fullscale schlieren studies of product ergonomics. 15 shows authors Miller and Hackett seated at a table with candles and cups of hot coffee. In addition to the strong thermal plume and finescale turbulence. with a 5 . 12 volatile fumes upon removing the lid of a chemical drum are visualized. of the line of schlieren sensitivity across the image. The distance from telescope to aircraft is prearranged so that the latter will be sharply focused on the film plane. such plumes have never before been observed at full scale. We believe full-scale schlieren has a key role to play in visualizing and understanding all types of ventilation flows. and rise" of such plumes by sketches rather than actual images. The motion of the film is in the direction of flight of the aircraft. large-scale structures and light absorption by smoke are also apparent.75 km range from his specially-fitted 20 cm f/10 telescope. 10. The amount of cutoff is determined by adjustment of this slit with respect to the sun's image. Fig. However. mounted inside the telescope at the position where the sun is sharply focused. The convection from a hot motorcycle. shown in Fig. 17. The resulting image shown here in Fig. 2.1 and 9. but his tracer particles more often revealed where the plumes were not than where they were. Future research will examine thermal plumes of commercial cooking equipment and the ventilation hood design required to capture them efficiently. except for a few cases when smoke was added as a tracer . 16 shows HVAC airflows in a full-scale domestic setting. Scale-modeling of such situations has not generally been possible when thermal gradients are present . This exemplifies scenarios where fume spreading and hazardous materials are involved and refractive index gradients are produced. the telescope optics serve as the lens. spread. when he photographed a NASA T-38 aircraft flying across the sun at Mach 1. 18. especially when videotaped during normal movement. 13. 1993. but the fumes are invisible to the unaided eye. A seminal visualization study of full-scale ventilation flows was done by Daws . It contains a curved slit which matches the edge of the sun. 11 shows a schlieren image of a full-scale trash fire in a barrel. Such full-scale schlieren images of people. which shows a gas barbecue grill producing a strong thermal plume.
Additional thanks are due to the 3M Corp.. 3) Settles. S. and W-Y." J.. E. A. "Improvements in the Schlieren Method. Aeronautical Sciences. R. leakage from valves. chillers. 5) Weinberg. L. 1933. Nov. ed." Proc. This full-scale approach to schlieren flow visualization is important to High-Speed Civil Transport research. Optical Soc. 1949 7) Kantrowitz. Wong. "Schlieren Methods. and air-handling equipment. 6. 31. G. air curtains. 303-439. No. 57. welding fume removal. 9) Dall. British Astronomical Assoc. and Trimpi. for the donation of retroreflective material. 6) Burton. J. 17.. "A Modified Schlieren Apparatus for Large Areas of Field. In addition to those already mentioned. S. or seen only poorly using tracer visualization. May 1950. pp. H." International Journal of Heat and Fluid Flow. since sonic boom propagation is yet another problem which does not scale down easily. America. Vol. D. "Optical Studies in Fire Research. Vol. R. 4) Taylor.height scale of 28 m. Acknowledgments We thank Lori J. "A Sharp-Focusing Schlieren System.. and Waldram. Dodson and Sanjay Garg for their contributions to this work. 1942 (English translation: NASA TT F-12. 10. paint spraying. pp. Conclusions This paper has surveyed a variety of approaches to the visualization of full-scale phenomena by schlieren imaging. pp. 1991. Schlieren and Shadowgraphy. 8) Weinstein. Vol. thermal cutting. L.. John Wiley and Sons. others include full-scale basic heat transfer experiments. pp.. M. J. 31. 378. Special emphasis was given to a large new grid-type schlieren system which is reported here for the first time. Images obtained with this system reveal thermal plumes and other flow and heat transfer phenomena never seen before. G.." Ergebnisse der Exakten Naturwissenschaften. 2) Holder. Many potential applications of full-scale schlieren visualization remain to be explored. 6 . Optical Shop Testing. 20. 1947. 5. Miller Industries. 3-15. Her Majesty's Stationery Office. Vol.. M.. 39. automobile interior and exterior heat transfer.. References 1) Schardin. "Colour-Coding Schlieren Techniques for the Optical Study of Heat and Fluid Flow. is easily the largest-scale schlieren image ever captured on film. Symposium on Combustion. and full-scale studies of explosive events. F. solvent evaporation from automobiles after painting. 799-807. 10) Malacara. London. H. flow patterns associated with full-scale boilers. Vol. No. book in press. p. 1977. fume hoods. D. G. Nov. 907-908.732). pp. refrigerators. for his contribution to the grid silkscreening technique. airflow and convective heat transfer about animals. 311-314."Schlieren Methods and Their Applications. July 1993. Scientific Instruments. pp. H." J. PA. W. J. "A Null Test for Paraboloids. Vol. 1250-1255." AIAA J. The exploration of these topics is expected to go on for some years. March 1985." J." J. R. and to Jeff Lamens of D. 1. The coalescence of shock waves in the near field of the aircraft is clearly shown. W. Huntingdon. A. and North. 1963. "Large-Field High-Brightness Focusing Schlieren System. Vol. 16th Intl. 11) Settles...." National Physical Laboratory Notes on Applied Science No...
"Hot Showers Produced Elevated Levels of Chloroform. 19) Alvi.-J. S. 3. Hemisphere Press. 1404. C.. M. Vol. L. V. 1987. J.. 1994. No. pp. 102.. 31-59. H. P. S. "A Sharp-Focusing Schlieren Optical Deflectometer. 39. H. S. and R. A.. 9. for Gen. W.. Vol. W.. p. P. Vol.. Yang. G. 24) Daws. 619-626).. F. Microbiology. E.. 1989. D. pp. G.. C. L. 833-838. Vol.. pp.. "An Optical Technique for Examining Aircraft Shock Wave Structures in Flight. and Nemri. "Visualization of Clean Room Flows for Contamination Control in Microelectronics Manufacturing." AIAA Paper 93-0629. p. Press. 21) Settles. "Large-Field Color Schlieren Visualization of Transient Fluid Phenomena. "Movement of Airstreams Indoors. 299-304. M. 12. Fall 1993. 1994. B.. 23) Awbi. G. pp. 28. M. No." Flow Visualization IV. Hemisphere Press. J. 17th Symp. Jan.. "Aerodynamics of the Human Microenvironment.. 25) Weinstein.. 13) Settles.. and Garg. Washington. Settles." Bulletin of the American Physical Soc. "Indoor Environments. L. 29. S. 1972. 1890.. 1984. S. R. Indoor Air Issue. 207-210. p. 14.. G. 1515. 3.. 16) Hackett. C. S. 18) Settles. pp. Vol. 1969. June 28. S. B. of the Soc. Huitema. September 1994. "Scale Effect in Room Airflow Studies. G. M.. and Kuhns." Journal of Thermal Spray Technology." Bulletin of the American Physical Soc. Mullan.. 1983. G. 101."A Scientific View of the Productivity of Abrasive Blasting Nozzles. McIntyre. and Via. 9. G. Veret. Delmar Publishers. and Settles. 14) Wallace. J.. Cambridge Univ." Energy and Buildings. S. 1990. Clark. N." The Lancet. F. 15) Settles. R. 9. Vol. 1993. S. S." in Airborne Microbes: Proc. G. "On the Gas Dynamics of HVOF Thermal Sprays.Diagram of Grid-Type Schlieren System 7 . Fig. April 1995.12) Lewis. S. B. A. L. Foster. 22) Lang. No.. Cox. Settles. G." EPA Journal. (pp. ed.. 1967. M.." Chapter 37 of Handbook of Flow Visualization. NASA CP-3279. and Weinstein. 28-41. S. "Visualization of Airflow and Convection Phenomena About the Human Body. 1 ." in High-Speed Research: 1994 Sonic Boom Workshop. No. 17) Settles. ed. 20) Garg. and Miller.. Principles of Air Conditioning."Turbulence Measurements in a Supersonic Boundary Layer by Focusing Schlieren." Bulletin of the American Physical Soc. pp 1273-1277." Journal of Protective Coatings and Linings.. G. S.
4 . 3 .5 .Human Thermal Plume Fig.Fig.Diagram of 1-Meter Double-Pass Coincident Schlieren System Fig.Human Cough 8 . 2 .Diagram of Schardin's Schlieren Method Number 5 Fig.
8 .7 . 9 . 6 .Instantaneous Image of Bullet and Muzzle Blast from 22-Caliber Rifle Fig.Fig.HVOF Thermal Spray Fig.Top View of 2x3m Grid-Type Full-Scale Schlieren System Layout 9 .Subject in Cleanroom Downflow Fig.
12 . 10 .11 .Trash-Barrel Fire Fig.Gas Barbecue Grill Fig.Fig.Volatile Chemical Fumes 10 Fig. 13 .Chainsaw Exhaust .
Fig. 15 . and Coffee Fig. 16 .Full-Scale Schlieren Image of Domestic HVAC Airflows 11 . Candles.14 .Plume from Hot Motorcycle Fig.Dinner Table.
Diagram of Optics of Schlieren for Aircraft in Flight Fig.1 12 .Fig. 17 . 18 .Full-Scale Schlieren Image of T-38 Aircraft at Mach 1.
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