On the Use of Colour in Experimental Fluid Mechanics

On the Use of Colour in Experimental Fluid Mechanics

J.T. Turner S. Zhang 

School of Mechanical, Aerospace and Civil Engineering, University of Manchester, Manchester, UK

30 September 2009
| Citation



This paper discusses how colour is used in experimental fluid flow studies. Firstly, colour (defined scientifically by the wavelength of the light) can be used to discriminate between different channels in optical instrumentation, making it possible to measure several flow properties, simultaneously, and without any intrusion into the flow. These aspects of modern flow measurement are discussed in terms of some examples. Alternatively, the results of the flow measurement may be represented in the form of images, graphs and three-dimensional schematics with colour being used to identify and emphasise particular features that might otherwise remain concealed. The experimental results presented in the paper confirm that using colour to discriminate between sets of data has several important advantages over the older black and white or grey scale forms of representation. Not only do colours provide an excellent basis for communication through graphical and three-dimensional presentations, but the resulting clarity may also help to reveal complex forms of fluid flow behaviour. Moreover, the inherent artistic appeal of some colour representations can draw the viewer into the technical detail, helping to simplify physical phenomena in ways that would not otherwise be possible. Although the observations made on the presentation of data are illustrated with reference to a number of experimental fluid flow problems, many of the methods and observations would be applicable in other situations, where scientific or technological data needs to be presented.


colour, data presentation, experiment, fl uid fl ow measurement, graphics, images, light, understanding, wavelength


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