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Journal ArticleDOI

A nonintrusive laser interferometer method for measurement of skin friction

01 Jan 1983-Experiments in Fluids (Springer-Verlag)-Vol. 1, Iss: 1, pp 15-22

AbstractA method is described for monitoring the changing thickness of a thin oil film subject to an aerodynamic shear stress using two focused laser beams. The measurement is then simply analyzed in terms of the surface skin friction of the flow. The analysis includes the effects of arbitrarily large pressure and skinfriction gradients, gravity, and time-varying oil temperature. It may also be applied to three-dimensional flows with unknown direction. Applications are presented for a variety of flows including two-dimensional flows, three-dimensional swirling flows, separated flows, supersonic high-Reynolds-number flows, and delta-wing vortical flows.

Topics: Supersonic speed (51%)

Summary (1 min read)

2.1 Principle

  • A llne of oll is applied ahead of the front beam, the flow is started, and the oil flows downstream past the two beams.
  • The laser beams measure the time rate of change of the oil film's slope by monitoring the tlme-dependent optical interference as discussed in Section 2.2.
  • This information, in turn, is used to compute the average skin friction during the measurementperiod using the oil-flow theory and data-reductionequationsdiscussedin Section 2.3.

2.2 Instrument

  • The two-beam _nstrument cannot be used if wind-tunnel geometries require angles in the range between 30°and 70°..
  • There, the angles are too near the oil Brewster angle of 54°, where the oil reflects the p-polarization poorly.
  • One method of avoiding this problem is to increase the incidence angle to a value beyond 70°.

3.1 AxisymmetricTwo-DimensionalBoundary-LayerFlow

  • The initial verificationexperimentsfor the two-beam laser interferometer method were performedby Monson and Higuchi (1981) and later repeated by Monson (1983) in a simple two-dimensionalboundary-layerflow with no gradients.
  • The tunnel has a cylinder mounted along its centerlineon which the skin friction was measured.
  • (A section of the cylinder can be rotated to produce a swirling boundary layer, but the cylinderwas stationaryfor these tests.).


  • Large plexlglass side windows allow laser beam access in and out of the tunnel.
  • The error bars on the mean laser interferometerdata representconfidencelimits of 95%.
  • Excellent agreement between the two methods and with theory is observed for the axial components.
  • Monson (1983) finds that shallow flow angles result both in long oil-flow path lengthswhich cause a persistenceof oil surfacewaves, and large errors in measured skin friction caused by small errors in applied oil llne direction.
  • As a result, this angle is probably close to the lower limit for which the present method can accurately measure the transverse skin-friction component in threedimensional flows.

4. Conclusions

  • Limitations to the method occur in flows possessing high dust levels, at very high skin-frlctlon levels, or when measuring transverse skin-frlction components in three-dlmensional flows nearly perpendicular to the local flow direction.
  • In spite of these limitations, this method has been used to successfully measure skin-friction levels between O.1 and 120 N/m 2, and transverse components in three-dimensional flows within 3@ of perpendicular to the local flow direction.

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NASA Technical Memorandum 84300
NASA-TM-84300 19830004123
A NonintrusiveLaserInterferometer
Methodfor Measurementof
Daryl J. Monson
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October 1982
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NASA Technical Memorandum 84300
A NonintrusiveLaserInterferometer
Methodfor Measurementof
Daryl J. Monson, Ames ResearchCenter, Moffett Field, California
NationalAeronautics and
Ames ResearchCenter

A method is described for monitoring the changing thickness of a thin oil film
subject to an aerodynamic shear stress using two focused laser beams. The measure-
ment is then simply analyzed in terms of the surface skin friction of the flow.
The analysis includes the effects of arbitrarily large pressure and skin-friction
gradients, gravity, and time-varying oil temperature. It may also be applied to
three-dimensional flows with unknown direction. Applications are presented for a
variety of flows including two-dlmensional flows, three-dimensional swirling flows,
separated flows, supersonic high Reynolds number flows, and delta-wing vortical

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