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March 2006 edition

Tunnel vision set to advance aircraft design

By Steven Schneider

Engineers at Purdue University, Indiana, have developed a wind tunnel capable of running quietly at hypersonic speeds, in a bid to help researchers design advanced aircraft and missiles.

The $1 million wind tunnel operates in airstreams travelling at Mach 6, about one-tenth to one-thirtieth of the noise in other high speed wind tunnels.

A quiet wind tunnel more closely simulates flight. The quiet operation is critical for recreating the smooth, laminar flow of air over the surfaces of the aircraft. Data from the tests with models studied in the wind tunnel will lead to a better understanding of when and how the air flowing over a surface changes from smooth to turbulent.

Schneider explains the wind tunnel's development in his AIAA paper, originally presented at the 44th Aerospace Sciences Meeting, in Reno, Nevada, in January 2006.

Quiet wind tunnel operation requires laminar flow on the walls of a tunnel segment called the nozzle. Turbulent flow in this segment radiates noise on to the test model, interfering with experiments.

Sometimes, however, turbulence does occur in the nozzle, and the researchers study the transition from laminar to turbulence to better understand how to prevent it and also to watch its effects on the model. The quiet Mach 6 wind tunnel is not the first of its kind. The National Aeronautics and Space Administration previously operated a wind tunnel capable of similar performance, but that wind tunnel is not currently in operation, Purdue said.

The tunne....

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Purdue University Aviation Tech Dept Technical/Eng/Scientific Studies, Training

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