Wind Tunnel and Wing Shape
A wind tunnel is a tool used in aerodynamic research to study the effects of air moving past solid objects. A wind tunnel consists of a tubular passage with the object under test mounted in the middle. Air is made to move past the object by a powerful fan system or other means. The test object, often called a wind tunnel model is instrumented with suitable sensors to measure aerodynamic forces, pressure distribution, or other aerodynamic-related characteristics.
The earliest wind tunnels were invented towards the end of the 19th century, in the early days of aeronautic research, when many attempted to develop successful heavier-than-air flying machines. The wind tunnel was envisioned as a means of reversing the usual paradigm: instead of the air standing still and an object moving at speed through it, the same effect would be obtained if the object stood still and the air moved at speed past it. In that way a stationary observer could study the flying object in action, and could measure the aerodynamic forces being imposed on it.
The development of wind tunnels accompanied the development of the airplane. Large wind tunnels were built during the Second World War. Wind tunnel testing was considered of strategic importance during the Cold War development of supersonic aircraft and missiles.
Air velocity and pressures are measured in several ways in wind tunnels.
Air velocity through the test section is determined by Bernoulli's principle. Measurement of the dynamic pressure, the static pressure, and (for compressible flow only) the temperature rise in the airflow. The direction of airflow around a model can be determined by tufts of yarn attached to the aerodynamic surfaces. The direction of airflow approaching a surface can be visualized by mounting threads in the airflow ahead of and aft of the test model. Smoke or bubbles of liquid can be introduced into the airflow upstream of the test model, and their path around the model can be photographed.
Aerodynamic forces on the test model are usually measured with beam balances, connected to the test model with beams,strings, or cables.
A wing's aerodynamic quality is expressed as its lift-to-drag ratio. The lift a wing generates at a given speed and angle of attack can be one to two orders of magnitude greater than the total drag on the wing. A high lift-to-drag ratio requires a significantly smaller thrust to propel the wings through the air at sufficient lift.
Usually, aircraft wings have various devices, such as flaps or slats that the pilot uses to modify the shape and surface area of the wing to change its operating characteristics in flight. In 1948, Francis Rogallo invented the fully limp flexible wing, which ushered new possibilities for aircraft. Near in time, Domina Jalbert invented flexible un-sparred ram-air airfoiled thick wings. These two new branches of wings have been since extensively studied and applied in new branches of aircraft, especially altering the personal recreational aviation landscape.
A common misconception is that in order to generate lift it is essential for the wing to have a longer path on the topside compared with the underside. Wings with this shape are the norm in subsonic flight, but symmetrically shaped wings (above and below) can generate lift by using a positive angle of attack to deflect air downward. Symmetrical airfoils have higher stalling speeds than cambered airfoils of the same wing area but are used in aerobatic aircraft as they provide practical performance whether the aircraft is upright or inverted. Another example comes from sailboats, where the sail is a thin membrane with no path-length difference between one side and the other.
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