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Showing the Airflow in a Wind Tunnel *

Time Required Long (2-4 weeks)
*Note: This is an abbreviated Project Idea, without notes to start your background research, a specific list of materials, or a procedure for how to do the experiment. You can identify abbreviated Project Ideas by the asterisk at the end of the title. If you want a Project Idea with full instructions, please pick one without an asterisk.


A technique often used in wind tunnels is to introduce smoke in front of the airfoil that is being tested. The smoke comes from regularly-spaced point sources, and the wind flow in the tunnel spreads it out into parallel lines, called streamlines. The streamlines make it possible to visualize the airflow over the airfoil. When the lines continue smoothly over and past the airflow, they show that the flow remains laminar, and that the airfoil is creating very little drag. When the streamlines show more chaotic, turbulent flow, they indicate that the airfoil is creating more drag. You can do something similar with a wind tunnel by stretching thin strings across the flow path, above and below your airfoil test zone. Clip them in place so you can move them up and down to fit different airfoil shapes. Attach a ribbon (about 25 cm long) to each string. Use a stick attached to your airfoil to hold it while you place it in the flow path, between the ribbons. The ribbons will act like the smoke streamlines, so that you can visualize whether the flow over your airfoil is turbulent or laminar. Try different airfoil shapes and measure which have the most laminar and the most turbulent flow. (Parker, 2005, 18-19)

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Science Buddies Staff. "Showing the Airflow in a Wind Tunnel" Science Buddies. Science Buddies, 30 June 2014. Web. 25 Oct. 2014 <http://www.sciencebuddies.org/science-fair-projects/project_ideas/Aero_p026.shtml>

APA Style

Science Buddies Staff. (2014, June 30). Showing the Airflow in a Wind Tunnel. Retrieved October 25, 2014 from http://www.sciencebuddies.org/science-fair-projects/project_ideas/Aero_p026.shtml

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Last edit date: 2014-06-30


Parker, S., 2005. The Science of Air: Projects and Experiments with Air and Flight, Chicago, IL: Heinemann Library.

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