Monday, January 12, 2009


Aerodynamics is the study of physics that examines the presence and effects of air or gases, especially when interacting with moving objects or living organisms. Aerodynamics are the forces that act on the surface of a body in motion moving through the air, or the pressure exerted by air flowing past a stationary object. Examples of airflow around bodies are: gas in engines and furnaces, air conditioning of buildings, vehicles, buildings and bridges, bird and insect flight, musical instruments, etc.

Air is viscous; viscosity is the ability of a flowing liquid or gas to resist the flow of objects going through it. In air, viscous forces are generally small in comparison with other inertia forces, which can cause instability and turbulence when objects move through them. This is why air close to the Earth’s surface is generally turbulent, as is the air near other bodies moving through air. The problem of turbulence has never been completely solved however, engineers can usually predict its affects and compensate for it.

The compressibility of air determines the speeds at which pressure changes are transmitted the flow field. The speed of sound is about 340 m/s at sea level, and 296 m/s in the stratosphere, the difference is due to air compressibility. If the speed of a body transcends the speed of sound, the pattern of airflow changes and pressure waves turn into shock waves. Mach speed is the number of the ratio between a body and the speed of sound. The design of efficient aircraft shapes for flight at speeds greater near or greater than Mach one is one of the most challenging problems in the field of aerodynamics.

Viscosity and compressibility are the most difficult factors to deal with in theoretical thermodynamics and the development of aerodynamics in this century has been possible only through using experimentation with theoretical aerodynamics. In order to test theories scientists use a wind tunnel, a tool used to study the effects of air, to test their theories.

Aerodynamics is applicable to more studies than those of aeronautics however; scientists use wind tunnels to study the affects of air pressure on new architectural designs, and to study the natural winds that flow over the Earth’s surface. Other places use aerodynamics to investigate things such as bird flight, pesticide and spray diffusion and distribution, and snow drifting. Other studies include aerodynamic forces on downhill skiers, cars, high-rise buildings, model ships and trains, a flexible stadium roof (sky dome), snowmobiles, motorcycles, parachutes, and so on.

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