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Visualising turbulence created by powerful aircraft engines

01 December 2015

Imperial researchers are attempting to reduce aircraft noise, by creating pictures of how air is forced through engines when aircraft are in flight.

This simulation shows how the serrations cause small scale zigzag-like vortical structures

Noise pollution from aircraft is a global policy and health issue. Scientists from Imperial have previously found that risks of hospital admissions and deaths from stroke and heart disease were around 10 to 20 percent higher in areas with highest levels of aircraft noise, compared with the areas with least noise.

Much work has been done by the aviation industry to lessen the noise impact of aircraft, including the development of serrated engine jet nozzles, which feature in some of the latest passenger aircraft such as Boeing’s 787 Dreamliner.

The engine’s serrated edges create small, unsteady pockets of air called vortical structures, which break up the larger air parcels being forced out of the jet engine. This process disrupts the engine noise, making aircraft quieter.

The model shows turbulence, which look like puffs of smoke, being emitted from an aircraft engine

Now researchers, led by Dr Peter Vincent from Imperial’s Department of Aeronautics, have developed computer models, some of which are displayed here, which enable them to visualise the vortical structures created by the serrated jet nozzles in unprecedented detail.

The models are helping the researchers and their industrial collaborators to interpret and analyse the results of very large aircraft engine simulations. Their work has the potential to accelerate new discoveries in the field, ultimately leading to the next generation of even quieter aircraft engines.


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