Build a tiny plane, cover it in fluorescent oil, and use the results to improve the design of our future air-based transport.
This is what researchers at NASA's Langley Research Center in Hampton, Va. hope to achieve with a toy-sized model of a hybrid plane. The image above shows a 5.8 percent scale model of a futuristic hybrid wing body, coated in fluorescent oil before being blasted with air.
The team sent the hybrid plane through a subsonic wind tunnel to document and "see" the flow patterns of air when it passes over and around the model.
While a vast amount of data can be recorded by viewing the movement of a plane with the naked eye, by using oil, researchers can view minute details and tweak designs with more precision as a result. By documenting lift and drag in this manner, NASA can further the development and improve the efficiency of future planes and their aerodynamics.
The space agency has been pushing research to improve flight efficiency in recent years. As an example, NASA and aircraft carrier Boeing have formed a partnership to improve the flight of craft in space and more efficiently transport crew to and from the International Space Station.
Image credit: NASA