Pressure Sensitive Paint

With ever increasing demands for refinement in vehicle design, new methods are developed to provide a greater level of detailed information. Special pressure sensitive paint is now used in the wind tunnel to graphically show levels of air pressure on a vehicle.

The Process

Two different images are obtained, one at normal room air pressure (wind-off) and a second in which the wind tunnel is running (wind-on) at a desired test speed. These differences in color, from wind-off to wind-on, are used to calculate surface pressure.

A bank of blue lights illuminate a 2002 Ford Thunderbird that has pressure-sensitive paint applied on the driver’s side window. The car and lights are in a wind tunnel at Ford Motor Company’s Dearborn Proving Ground. Ford researchers have developed a computerized, pressure-sensitive paint technique that measures airflow over cars, shaving weeks off current testing methods. A digital camera near the blue lights captures this information and feeds it into a computer, which displays the varying pressure as dramatically different colours on a monitor.

The images obtained from tests in the wind tunnel are captured on computer. They can then be used to study air flow patterns across a vehicle, highlighting areas of possible refinement or improvement. Additionally, actual data from a production ready model can be compared with pre-production computer predictions which can in turn help improve the accuracy of the early design stages.

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