The European transonic wind tunnel (ETW) is a high-Reynolds-number transonic wind tunnel that uses nitrogen as test gas. Situated in Cologne, Germany The ETW is in operation since 1994.
The ETW has a closed aerodynamic circuit contained inside an internally insulated stainless steel pressure shell. They specialise in testing aircraft design, testing how well new models will perform at low temperature cruise conditions and at the extreme borders of the flight envelope.
By applying low temperature operation, ETW is capable of accurately simulating actual high-lift and high-speed flight conditions of modern transport aircraft, defined by the Mach number and the Reynolds number. What this tunnel stands out for is its ability to match the respective high Reynolds number, a key feature which cannot be done in conventional wind tunnels at ambient temperature.
Fundamentally, if the temperature of the flow is decreased, the viscosity of the gas and the velocity of sound decrease and the density increases. The overall effect of cooling is that the Reynolds number increases rapidly. Thus a pressurised tunnel at very low “cryogenic” temperatures can provide real-flight Reynolds numbers by virtue of both increased pressure and decreased temperature.
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