Experiments in Fluids

, 59:32 | Cite as

Options for refractive index and viscosity matching to study variable density flows

  • Simon A. Clément
  • Anaïs Guillemain
  • Amy B. McCleney
  • Philippe M. Bardet
Research Article


Variable density flows are often studied by mixing two miscible aqueous solutions of different densities. To perform optical diagnostics in such environments, the refractive index of the fluids must be matched, which can be achieved by carefully choosing the two solutes and the concentration of the solutions. To separate the effects of buoyancy forces and viscosity variations, it is desirable to match the viscosity of the two solutions in addition to their refractive index. In this manuscript, several pairs of index matched fluids are compared in terms of viscosity matching, monetary cost, and practical use. Two fluid pairs are studied in detail, with two aqueous solutions (binary solutions of water and a salt or alcohol) mixed into a ternary solution. In each case: an aqueous solution of isopropanol mixed with an aqueous solution of sodium chloride (NaCl) and an aqueous solution of glycerol mixed with an aqueous solution of sodium sulfate (\(\hbox {Na}_2\hbox {SO}_4\)). The first fluid pair allows reaching high-density differences at low cost, but brings a large difference in dynamic viscosity. The second allows matching dynamic viscosity and refractive index simultaneously, at reasonable cost. For each of these four solutes, the density, kinematic viscosity, and refractive index are measured versus concentration and temperature, as well as wavelength for the refractive index. To investigate non-linear effects when two index-matched, binary solutions are mixed, the ternary solutions formed are also analyzed. Results show that density and refractive index follow a linear variation with concentration. However, the viscosity of the isopropanol and NaCl pair deviates from the linear law and has to be considered. Empirical correlations and their coefficients are given to create index-matched fluids at a chosen temperature and wavelength. Finally, the effectiveness of the refractive index matching is illustrated with particle image velocimetry measurements performed for a buoyant jet in a linearly stratified environment. The creation of the index-matched solutions and linear stratification in a large-scale experimental facility are detailed, as well as the practical challenges to obtain precise refractive index matching.



This project was supported by a DOE NEUP grant to Dr. Bardet. The authors would like to thank the reviewers for their comments and advice, which improved the clarity of the manuscript and allowed us to add valuable information for the readers.


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Copyright information

© Springer-Verlag GmbH Germany, part of Springer Nature 2018

Authors and Affiliations

  • Simon A. Clément
    • 1
  • Anaïs Guillemain
    • 1
  • Amy B. McCleney
    • 2
  • Philippe M. Bardet
    • 1
  1. 1.Department of Mechanical and Aerospace EngineeringThe George Washington UniversityWashington, DCUSA
  2. 2.Southwest Research InstituteSan AntonioUSA

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