The direct and indirect measurement of boundary stress and drag on individual and complex arrays of elements

Rafael O. Tinoco, Edwin A. Cowen

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Motivated by the study of drag on plant canopies, a novel non-intrusive drag measurement device was developed - its design, calibration, and validation are presented. The device is based on isolating a region of a test facility, a section of the bed of an open channel flume in the present case, from the facility itself. The drag plate, sufficiently large to allow for spatial averaging over multiple elements, is constrained to move on essentially frictionless rails in the direction of flow, and the force applied to the plate by the interaction of objects on the plate with the flow is monitored. In contrast to force balances used in wind tunnels, our design allows for easy mounting of multiple elements on different configurations, it holds large vertical loads with negligible effect to the horizontal forces measured, does not require intrusive frames to hold the elements within the flow, all of its components are externally located at the bottom of the flume, providing immediate access for adjustments, and the mounted load cell is easily interchangeable to increase the measurement dynamic range without system modifications. The measurement of two canonical, well-studied cases is used to validate the drag plate approach: drag induced by a turbulent boundary layer and the drag on a rigid cylinder. A third series of experiments, flow through arrays of rigid cylinders, is presented to show the applicability of the drag plate on more complex flows. The experimental results confirm the drag plate approach to be suitable for the accurate direct measurement of drag on simple and complex arrays of objects, which makes it ideal for studies of vegetated flows, natural rough boundary layers, coastal structures, and urban canopies, just to name a few possibilities.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Article number1509
JournalExperiments in Fluids
Issue number4
StatePublished - Apr 2013
Externally publishedYes

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Computational Mechanics
  • Mechanics of Materials
  • General Physics and Astronomy
  • Fluid Flow and Transfer Processes


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