Experimental Fluid Mechanics Vs. Computational Fluid Mechanics

In summary, the two types of labs have different strengths and weaknesses. The experimentalist has a lot of control over extraneous variables, but it can be difficult to extract information from the Solver. The computationalist can solve flows quickly, but they often need to take liberties with the physics. Overall, the two types of labs need to work together to get anything done.
  • #1
AJSayad
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Hi everyone,

I just started graduate school and I've been working in an experimental fluid mechanics lab. We have a shock tube and run tests on studying supersonic and hypersonic airflow under different conditions. We use Schileren imaging and transducers to take measurements during tests. We then use a MATLAB code to process the data and generate graphs and then interpret the data.

I was wondering if anyone has any experience working in a lab that does more of the computational and numerical analysis side of fluid mechanics (i.e. CFD, algorithims/codes to process data, etc.) and is willing to share their experience to help me compare and contrast the two lab settings and workflows. I've been thinking about switching to a computational lab since I really enjoy the mathematical/numerical/data processing side of the field as well as having the independence of working at my own pace rather than relying on the entire lab to do tests but before switching labs and changing advisors, I want to get a better idea of what the change might entail.

Any insight is greatly appreciated and is a huge help.
Thanks.
 
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  • #3
Why are we paging me? I don't know jack about life as a CFD jockey. I'm a wind tunnel guy! o0)

I think the best way to sum up the differences are as follows:
Experimentalists have wind tunnels (or similar facilities) that "solve" the Navier-Stokes equations in real time over the full scale of a model and down to the resolution of a Planck length. Unfortunately, it is very difficult to control all extraneous variables and difficult to extract information from that "solver."

Computationalists have to run codes that take various liberties with the physics and it generally takes a considerable amount of time to solve a flow field corresponding to a few seconds (or even fractions of a second) in real time. However, they can extract essentially any flow variable at ease and have almost perfect control over all variables going into their simulations.

Ultimately, the two need to work together to get anything done.

Sorry, I can't tell you what life is like running simulations for a living. Both types of people above use computers extensively but CFD folks definitely use them more. However, you can get a ton of data processing time that is heavily based on some pretty hairy mathematics as an experimentalist if you really want to dig into the data. Actually, because data are so hard to extract from a wind tunnel and they are often riddled with noise, I would argue that the data/signals processing involved with experiments is usually far more difficult than what CFD folks do. I'd also argue that the best experimentalists are well-versed in theory so that they can interpret their results more readily.
 
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  • #4
Hey it's all good thanks for your input! Any insight into at all is further along than where I am! I appreciate the help!
 
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1. What is the main difference between experimental fluid mechanics and computational fluid mechanics?

Experimental fluid mechanics involves physically conducting experiments on fluid behavior in order to gather data and understand fluid dynamics. Computational fluid mechanics, on the other hand, uses computer simulations and mathematical models to study fluid flow and make predictions about its behavior.

2. Which method is more accurate in studying fluid mechanics?

Both experimental and computational fluid mechanics have their own strengths and limitations. Experimental fluid mechanics can provide more accurate and reliable results as it directly measures the fluid behavior. However, computational fluid mechanics can be more efficient and cost-effective in studying complex fluid systems or situations that are difficult to replicate in experiments.

3. Can experimental and computational fluid mechanics be used together?

Yes, these two methods can be complementary to each other. Experimental data can be used to validate and improve the accuracy of computational models. On the other hand, computational fluid mechanics can provide insights and predictions that can guide and inform experimental design.

4. What are the main applications of experimental and computational fluid mechanics?

Experimental fluid mechanics is commonly used in industries such as aerospace, automotive, and marine to optimize the design and performance of fluid systems. Computational fluid mechanics is widely used in fields such as weather forecasting, environmental studies, and medical research to simulate and understand complex fluid behavior.

5. How does the future of fluid mechanics look like with the advancement of technology?

The future of fluid mechanics is promising with the continuous development of technology. Experimental techniques are becoming more precise and advanced, while computational methods are becoming more efficient and accurate. The integration of these two methods will lead to a better understanding and control of fluid behavior, enabling us to solve complex problems and improve various industries.

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