Using a Laser to Illuminate the Invisible

Military Sep 28, 2010

Early results are promising, as shown by this image of a turbulent jet of air. The flow was produced by exhausting air upwards through a round nozzle and shows the evolution of the jet from nice smooth laminar flow near the exit of the nozzle (left portion of the image) to unsteady, 3-D turbulent flow (right portion of the image). Click the image to see the 3-D rotation.

Image courtesy of Dr. Brian Thurow

Advanced Laser Diagnostics Pinpoint Causes of Air Behavior Patterns

You can’t see it, but every time you move, you make the air move around you. So if you’re an aircraft designer, how do you create safer, faster, more fuel-efficient aircraft if you can’t see what the air’s doing?

That’s where aerospace engineer Brian Thurow and his lab come in. His team has found a way to take pictures of air moving at jet fighter speeds — and they’re rapidly developing the technology to do it in 3-D. First, they use a scanning mirror to deflect a thin laser sheet through the flow field so that each sheet illuminates a different plane of the field. Then they’ll sequence the pictures to construct a 3-D image of the flow.

“The problem with just measuring the forces is that it makes it difficult to determine what led to those forces,” Thurow says. Now Thurow and his team are lending their visualization skills to the Department of Defense to develop the next generation of measurement instruments that will examine problems related to missiles, airplanes and helicopters.

Principal Investigator

Dr. Brian Thurow

Research Interests: 3-D imaging, flow visualization, acoustics, gas dynamics, experimental fluid dynamics, aerodynamics, turbulence, compressible fluid dynamics, lasers, aero-optics, high-repetition rate laser diagnostics, optical diagnostics

Visit Dr. Thurow’s Web site.

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