Measurements of skin friction in water using surface stress sensitive films

J. W. Crafton, S. D. Fonov, E. G. Jones, L. P. Goss, R. A. Forlines, A. Fontaine

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

18 Scopus citations


The measurement of skin friction on hydrodynamic surfaces is of significant value for the design of advanced naval technology, particularly at high Reynolds numbers. Here we report on the development of a new sensor for measurement of skin friction and pressure that operates in both air and water. This sensor is based on an elastic polymer film that deforms under the action of applied normal and tangential loads. Skin friction and pressure gradients are determined by monitoring these deformations and then solving an inverse problem using a finite element model of the elastic film. This technique is known as surface stress sensitive films. In this paper, we describe the development of a sensor package specifically designed for two-dimensional skin friction measurements at a single point. The package has been developed with the goal of making two-dimensional measurements of skin friction in water. Quantitative measurements of skin friction are performed on a high Reynolds number turbulent boundary layer in the 12 inch water tunnel at Penn State University. These skin friction measurements are verified by comparing them to measurements obtained with a drag plate as well as by performing two-dimensional velocity measurements above the sensor using a laser Doppler velocimetry system. The results indicate that the sensor skin friction measurements are accurate to better than 5% and repeatable to better than 2%. The directional sensitivity of the sensor is demonstrated by positioning the sensor at several orientations to the flow. A final interesting feature of this sensor is that it is sensitive to pressure gradients, not to static pressure changes. This feature should prove useful for monitoring the skin friction on a seafaring vessel as the operating depth is changed.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Article number075801
JournalMeasurement Science and Technology
Issue number7
StatePublished - Jul 1 2008

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • Instrumentation
  • Engineering (miscellaneous)
  • Applied Mathematics


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