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'Whisper Mode' ala Blue Thunder Researched At Bristol

The mystery of how futuristic aircraft-embedded engines, featuring an energy-conserving arrangement, make noise has been solved by researchers at the University of Bristol.


( Boundary layer ingesting (BLI) ducted fan test rig inside the aeroacoustics wind tunnel facility at the University of Bristol. )

Their study, published in Journal of Fluid Mechanics, reveals for the first time how noise is generated and propagated from these engines, technically known as boundary layer ingesting (BLI) ducted fans. The paper is titled "Aeroacoustics of a ducted fan ingesting an adverse pressure gradient boundary layer."

BLI ducted fans are similar to the large engines found in modern airplanes but are partially embedded into the plane's main body instead of under the wings. As they ingest air from both the front and from the surface of the airframe, they don't have to work as hard to move the plane, so it burns less fuel.

The research, led by Feroz Ahmed from Bristol's School of Civil, Aerospace and Design Engineering under the supervision of Professor Mahdi Azarpeyvand, utilized the University National Aeroacoustic Wind Tunnel Facility. They were able to identify distinct noise sources originating from the duct, the rotating fan, and the air flowing over the curved airframe surface.

Fans of the outstanding 1983 movie Blue Thunder recall "whisper mode", referring to a special helicopter flight mode that was almost completely silent. Warning: this clip contains spoilers!


('Blue Thunder' whisper mode)

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