Testing More Efficient Wing Designs
A wind tunnel model with specially designed wings is being tested in NASA Langley's National Transonic Facility for the Fundamental Aeronautics Program's Subsonic Fixed Wing project.
Researchers are trying to see if they can test for natural laminar flow on an airliner wing at flight conditions in a wind tunnel.
Laminar flow, the smooth, uninterrupted flow of air over wings, reduces drag compared to turbulent flow. A natural laminar flow wing would increase fuel efficiency and reduce emissions.
Unfortunately laminar airflow is extremely difficult to accomplish, in part because of the exactness required in construction. Even the smallest of rivets in a wing can cause air to become turbulent.
Credit: NASA/Sean Smith