Transition Detection for Low Speed Wind Tunnel Testing Using Infrared Thermography
Transition is an important phenomenon in large scale, commercial, wind tunnel testing at low speeds because it is an excellent indicator of an airfoil performance. It is difficult to estimate transition through numerical techniques because of the complex nature of viscous flow. Therefore experimental techniques can be essential. Over the transition region the rate of heat transfer shows significant increases which can be detected using infrared thermography. This technique has been used predominantly at high speeds, on small models made of insulated materials, and for short test runs. Large scale testing has not been widely undertaken because the high sensitivity of transition to external factors makes it difficult to detect.
The present study records the process undertaken to develop, implement and validate a transition detection system for continual use in the Virginia Tech Stability Wind Tunnel: a low speed, commercial wind tunnel where large, aluminium models are tested. The final system developed comprises of two high resolution FLIR A655sc infrared cameras; four 63.5-mm diameter circular windows; aluminium models covered in 0.8-mm silicone rubber insulation and a top layer of ConTact© paper; and a series of 25.4-mm wide rubber silicone fiberglass insulated heaters mounted inside the model and controlled externally by experimenters. This system produces images or videos of the model and the associated transition location, which is later extracted through image processing methods to give a final transition location in percentage chord.
The system was validated using two DU96-W-180 airfoils of different chord lengths in the Virginia Tech Stability Wind Tunnel, each tested two months apart. The system proved to be robust and efficient, while not affecting the airfoil performance or any other system in use in the wind tunnel. Transition results produced by the system were compared to measurements obtained from pressure data and stethoscope tests as well as the numerical predictions of XFOIL. The transition results from all four methods showed excellent agreement with each other for the two models, for at least two Reynolds numbers and for several angles of attack on both suction and pressure side of the model. The agreement of data obtained under such different conditions and at different times suggests that the infrared thermography system efficiently and accurately detects transition for large aluminium models at low speeds.