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Department of Aeronautics & Astronautics College of Engineering UNIVERSITY OF WASHINGTON

Technical Note No. 69-1 February 1969


by Shojiro Shindo and Otto Brask


The authors wish to acknowledge the generous help of Mr. Robert S. Nielson in every aspect of this project. Much gratitude is also due the staff of the University of Washington Aeronautical Laboratory (UWAL) for assisting and allowing us to use the facility. In addition the authors would like to thank Mr. Robert Blair for his kind assistance in the design of the Power supply. The Army Research Office Durham Grant DA-ARO-D-31-124G809, the University of Washington Department of Aeronautics and Astronautics, and the Aeronautical Laboratory for their fiscal support.


It has been the dream of the aerodynamicist to be able to see the the actual flow characteristics around a three dimensional model in a wind tunnel. The smoke generator described in this report can be used in any low speed wind tunnel in conjunction with other tests. The device produces a non-toxic, non-corrosive, dense white smoke suitable for observation and photography.


In this field of aeronautical science, the flow visualization has been a nebulous observation simply because air is invisible. The use of saw dust, tufts, fluorescent dye in oil with black light, a recently developed laser beam and smoke, are some of th methods and materials used to attempt flow visualization. The use of saw dust increases the difficulty of maintenance in the wind tunnel and its associated equipment. The tuft and oil methods show flow on the surface of the model. the laser beam has not yet been perfected as a usable tool for this purpose. Whatever the method used, the substance introduced into the tunnel should be non-corrosive, non-toxic, and the equipment must be safe to handle. The use of smoke appears to combine all the best characteristics of available methods. In the early days, rotten wood was the popular source of smoke, (Ref. 1 and 2). However, smoke produced by the burning wood was an eye irritant and caused an accumulation of tars. The technique of evaporating oil by various methods was introduced to eliminate some of the problems of the smoke, (Ref. 2). The study of smoke generators has also been reported in England and Australia, (Ref. 3, 4, and 5). In the United States, Princeton University produced smoke using kerosene, (Ref. 6). All of these methods require rather complex set up of equipment for the reason of either safety or health. Sellberg of Sweden wrote a report on the subject of his smoke generator, (Ref. 7). He used what he called white spirit to produce the smoke. The design of his smoke generator was modified and several commercially available liquids were tested at the Department of Aeronautics and Astronautics, University of Washington. This report presents the design and results of the smoke generator now in use at the University of Washington.


The principle of the device is to force oil through a small diameter tubing which is heated by electric current. The oil vaporizes in the tubing and quickly condenses to form a visible smoke, as it comes out of the open end. The probe can be fixed or hand held at any desired location. 1. Probe The probe itself is a 0.060 inch O.D., 0.010 inch wall stainless steel full hard, hypodermic needle about 75 inches long placed inside of a 0.38 inch O.D. steel tubing. A number of ceramic beads are slipped onto the stainless steel tubing to electrically insulate it from the outer tubing. The 0.38 inch O.D. outer tubing is made to contact the needle at about 8 inches from the tip. The needle is heated by the electric current of about 10 to15 amps for about 60 inches of its length. The current is applied near the base of the assembly to as to utilize the 0.38 inch outer steel tubing as a conductor. Figure 1 shows the schematic diagram of the smoke generator. The probe design allows for the needle to expand linearly due to the heat. The amount of expansion is made visible at the base by a marking on the tubing. The marking, the end portion of the needle, the power lines are all housed in a handle made out of a non-heat conducting material, thus, making it convenient to hand hold the unit if so desired. The device can produce a good smoke with a probe configuration other than straight, such as a coiled form of approximately 0.5 inch diameter and 4 inch long, or any other insulated shape to fit the test configuration. This type of arrangement is convenient if the long stem of the smoke generator cannot be introduced into the test section from outside. The probe tip can be made to produce a single, or up to 4 stream of smoke about 2 inches apart. The system described here cannot control the smoke at any one individual tip when a multiple tip configuration is used.


Power Supply

Figure 2 shows a dual power supply package of which each unit consists of a Variac anda 1.5 KVA, 115:230 volt transformer connected in a step-down fashion. This system, with 115 V. AC, makes it possible to control the element temperatue by changing the voltage across the hypodermic needle from zero to about 50 volts. Since the resistance of the tubing used here is about 3 ohms, the current is not more than about 15 amps. The power package shown in Figure 2 weighs approximately 100 lbs. which can be reduced to about 50 lbs. if only on unit system is needed.


Fuel Several different fluids were tried to produce the smoke. Kerosene, cleaning

solvent, Carnea oil, and paint thinner were forced through the heated hypodermic needle by compressed air. Some of the fluids made a deposit of tar, and others produced a smke that was not dense enough. The best result meeting the requirement of beinga non-toxic, non-corrosive, dense smoke, was obtained when a produced called Type 1964 Fog Juice was used. This product has a boiling temperature of approximately 530F, contains petroleum hydrocarbon and is commercially available from any theatrical supply dealer.


Reservoir The device includes a fuel reservoir which is equipped with a pressure regulator

and a fuel flow control valve. Compressed air is supplied to the reservoir through the pressure regulator, and when the valve is opened, the fuel flows through a flexible plastic tubing connected to the hypodermic needle.


The Model and Background In order to obtain a good photographic record, the model and background should

be painted flat black to achieve the maxmimum contrast with white smoke produced by this device.


Operation of the Smoke Generator

Specific instructions on the amount of voltage, fuel flow rate, and pressure qrequired to produce a saisfactory smoke are difficult to include in this paper because theyare highly dependent on the individual smoke generator and the environment of experiment. This section describes the general procedure of how to operate the device. Increase the voltage to about 70% of the transformer output and wait for a few seconds to heat the probe. Apply compressed air at about 30 psi. Supply fuel by cracking the valve.

The amount of fuel required is very small, being in the neighborhood of 1 ounce per minute. If hot oil comes out of the prob tips instead of smoke, generally it is the sign of low temperature. Increase the voltage to improve the condition. If the smoke pulsates, generally it is the sign of low air pressure. Increase the pressure to obtain a good smoke. This condition can also be remedied by decreasing the voltage. It is noted that only a good combination of the three controls can produce a satisfactory smoke.


The smoke produced by passing the Fog Juice through a heated long hypodermic needle is non-corrosive, non-toxic, and has a pleasant odor. The smoke is dense, white, and cool, being about 150F at about 1.5 inches away from the probe tip. The smoke streams appear to hold their definition at an air speed of about 100 mph, Figure 3. The smoke is also useful at very low air speeds. Figure 4 shows the smoke streams at an air speed of about 14 mph. The method described here has a positive control of smoke on or off. With the probe configuration of 4 tips, a half gallon of the Fog Juice can produce a continuous smoke for about an hour. By proper adjustment of the element voltages, the amount of fuel flow and pressure, this generator can produce a continuous white dense smoke suitable for observation and/or photographs as long as the fuel lasts.

ADDENDUM Type 1964 Fog Juice is a Mole-Richardson Product. As of January, 1995 the prices were: $15.35/quart, $26.61/gallon from a local supplier. The price of Rosco fog juice was $14.95/liter, $53.00/gallon. Please contact the manufacturers directly for the latest prices and availability: Mole-Richardson Company 937 N. Sycamore Avenue Hollywood CA 90038 213-851-0111 Rosco 1135 N. Highland Avenue Hollywood CA 90038 213-462-2233, 1-800-767-2652

Figure 2. Dual Unit Power Package

Figure 3. Smoke Streams at Approximately 100 mph

Figure 4. Smoke Streams at Approximately 14 mph



Ludington, C.T., Smoke Streams, Coward-McCann Inc. New York, 1943.


Lippisch, A. M., Flow Visualization, Aeronautical Engineering Review, February 1958.


Salter, C., Multiple-Jet White-Smoke Generators, Aeronautical Research Council R & M No. 2657, 1953.


Maltby, R.L., Flow Visualization in Wind Tunnels Using Indicators, AGARDograph 70, 1962.


Hodges, A.E. and Pound, T.N., Futher Development of a Smoke Producer Using Vaporized Oil, Aerodynamics Note 233, Australian Defense Scientific Service Aeronautical Research Laboratories, November 1964.


Hazen, D.C., Some Results of the Princeton University Smoke Flow Visualization Program, Fifth International Aeronautical Conference, Los Angeles, 1955.


Sellberg, L.D., Smoke Generator Type Lorinder for Flow Visualization in Low Speed Wind Tunnels, Technical Note KTH AERO TN 55, Departmment of Aeronautical Engineering, Royal Institue of Technology, Stockholm 70, Sweden, 1966.