World Library  
Flag as Inappropriate
Email this Article

Flow visualization

Article Id: WHEBN0005036574
Reproduction Date:

Title: Flow visualization  
Author: World Heritage Encyclopedia
Language: English
Subject: Planar laser-induced fluorescence, Seeding (fluid dynamics), An Album of Fluid Motion, Visualization (computer graphics), Computer graphics
Collection: Aerodynamics, Fluid Dynamics
Publisher: World Heritage Encyclopedia

Flow visualization

A model Cessna with helium-filled bubbles showing pathlines of the wingtip vortices.

Flow visualization or flow visualisation in fluid dynamics is used to make the flow patterns visible, in order to get qualitative or quantitative information on them.


  • Overview 1
  • Methods of visualization 2
  • Application 3
  • See also 4
  • References 5
  • External links 6


Flow visualization is the art of making flow patterns visible. Most fluids (air, water, etc.) are transparent, thus their flow patterns are invisible to us without some special methods to make them visible.

Historically, such methods included experimental methods, like say spilling ink into water. With the importance of computer models in all kinds of engineering growing and huge amounts of data collected from simulating flow processes (e.g. the distribution of air-conditioned air in a new car), purely computational methods have been developed.

Methods of visualization

Shadowgraph of the turbulent plume of hot air rising from a home-barbecue gas grill. Photograph by Gary S. Settles, Floviz Inc.

In experimental fluid dynamics, flows are visualized by three methods:

  • Surface flow visualization: This reveals the flow streamlines in the limit as a solid surface is approached. Colored oil applied to the surface of a wind tunnel model provides one example (the oil responds to the surface shear stress and forms a pattern).
  • Particle tracer methods: Particles, such as smoke or microspheres, can be added to a flow to trace the fluid motion. We can illuminate the particles with a sheet of laser light in order to visualize a slice of a complicated fluid flow pattern. Assuming that the particles faithfully follow the streamlines of the flow, we can not only visualize the flow but also measure its velocity using the particle image velocimetry or particle tracking velocimetry methods. Particles with densities that match that of the fluid flow will exhibit the most accurate visualization.[1]
  • Optical methods: Some flows reveal their patterns by way of changes in their optical refractive index. These are visualized by optical methods known as the shadowgraph, schlieren photography, and interferometry. More directly, dyes can be added to (usually liquid) flows to measure concentrations; typically employing the light attenuation or laser-induced fluorescence techniques.

In scientific visualization flows are visualized with two main methods:

  • Analytical methods, that analyse a given flow and show properties like streamlines, streaklines, and pathlines. The flow can either be given in a finite representation or as a smooth function.
  • Texture advection methods that "bend" textures (or images) according to the flow. As the image is always finite (the flow though could be given as a smooth function), these methods will visualize approximations of the real flow.


In computational fluid dynamics the numerical solution of the governing equations can yield all the fluid properties in space and time. This overwhelming amount of information must be displayed in a meaningful form. Thus flow visualization is equally important in computational as in experimental fluid dynamics.

See also


  • Merzkirch, W. (1987). Flow visualization. New York: Academic Press.  
  • Samimy, M.; Breuer, K. S.; Leal, L. G.; Steen, P. H. (2004). A gallery of fluid motion. Cambridge University Press.  
  • Settles, G. S. (2001). Schlieren and shadowgraph techniques: Visualizing phenomena in transparent media. Berlin: Springer-Verlag.  
  • Smits, A. J.; Lim, T. T. (2000). Flow visualization: Techniques and examples. Imperial College Press.  
  1. ^ PIV seeding particle recommendations

External links

  • Flow visualization techniques.
  • Flow visualization algorithms.
  • Gallery of Flow Visualization Examples.
  • Educational Particle Image Velocimetry (e-PIV) - resources and demonstrations
  • Floviz Inc., flow visualization instruments and associated technical support
This article was sourced from Creative Commons Attribution-ShareAlike License; additional terms may apply. World Heritage Encyclopedia content is assembled from numerous content providers, Open Access Publishing, and in compliance with The Fair Access to Science and Technology Research Act (FASTR), Wikimedia Foundation, Inc., Public Library of Science, The Encyclopedia of Life, Open Book Publishers (OBP), PubMed, U.S. National Library of Medicine, National Center for Biotechnology Information, U.S. National Library of Medicine, National Institutes of Health (NIH), U.S. Department of Health & Human Services, and, which sources content from all federal, state, local, tribal, and territorial government publication portals (.gov, .mil, .edu). Funding for and content contributors is made possible from the U.S. Congress, E-Government Act of 2002.
Crowd sourced content that is contributed to World Heritage Encyclopedia is peer reviewed and edited by our editorial staff to ensure quality scholarly research articles.
By using this site, you agree to the Terms of Use and Privacy Policy. World Heritage Encyclopedia™ is a registered trademark of the World Public Library Association, a non-profit organization.

Copyright © World Library Foundation. All rights reserved. eBooks from World Library are sponsored by the World Library Foundation,
a 501c(4) Member's Support Non-Profit Organization, and is NOT affiliated with any governmental agency or department.