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Japan Aerospace Exploration Agency

Technologies for measuring skin friction (wall shear stress)

With competition among passenger aircraft developers heating up across the globe, escalating oil prices have foregrounded fuel efficiency as one of the most important determinants of international competitiveness in the passenger aircraft market. Designing a fuel-efficient aircraft is about more than just engine performance, however - limiting in-flight drag is even more crucial. The largest contributor to overall drag is skin friction, which thus represents a primary target for reduction - and any effort to do so depends on technology for measuring skin friction.

One promising method that researchers around the world have examined as a possible solution for measuring skin friction is an optical measurement method that applies the oil flow approach, which enables users to conduct measurements on wing portions that are too thin for sensors. Although the method conventionally allows for quantitative measurements, it lacks adequate spatial resolution. To respond to these conditions, JAXA is developing a new method to enable quantitative measurements with sufficient resolution by the oil flow approach.