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The Sheer Delight of Tackling Shear Stress


March 29, 2010

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NASA's commitment to provide aeronautical research opportunities to U.S. universities has led to another success, this time through an inventive student who earned his Ph.D. by creating a tiny sensor that beats anything seen in 20 years. 

Vijay Chandrasekharan is a research associate and doctoral candidate at the University of Florida, where he produced a micro-electronic sensor that measures the amount of shear stress created when turbulent air flows over a surface.

The sensor already has proven its usefulness in improving the basic understanding of turbulent flow in gases and liquids, and in characterizing wind tunnels.

When air flows through a wind tunnel, some air molecules stick to the wall of the tunnel while others flow through at the speed of the wind. The difference in speed exerts a drag force on the wall of the tunnel and causes friction in the air. Drag and friction are related to shear stress.

The new sensor can measure a wider range of shear stress than can any sensor of its type before.

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