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Meredith effect

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Title: Meredith effect  
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Subject: Turbo-compound engine, De Havilland Mosquito, Aerospace engineering, Supermarine Spitfire, Aerodynamics
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Meredith effect

Meredith effect
The North American P-51 Mustang makes significant use of the Meredith effect in its belly radiator design.

The Meredith Effect is a phenomenon whereby the aerodynamic drag produced by a cooling radiator may be offset by careful design of the cooling duct such that useful thrust is produced. The effect was discovered in the 1930s and became more important as the speeds of piston-engined aircraft increased over the next decade.

Principles of operation

The Meredith effect occurs where air flowing through a duct is heated by a heat-exchanger or radiator containing a hot working fluid such as ethylene glycol. Typically the fluid is a coolant carrying waste heat from an internal combustion engine.[1]

For the effect to occur, the duct must be travelling at a significant speed with respect to the air. Air flowing into the duct meets drag resistance from the radiator surface and is compressed due to the ram air effect. As the air flows through the radiator it is heated, adding heat energy to the air and further increasing the pressure. On exit into the rear of the duct the hot, pressurised air the exhaust duct is shaped to be convergent, i.e. to narrow towards the rear. This accelerates the air backwards once more, and the reaction of this acceleration against the installation provides a small forward thrust.[2] The thrust obtainable depends upon the pressure difference between the inside and outside of the duct.[1] The air expands and cools as it passes along the duct, before emerging to join the external air flow.

If the generated thrust is less that the aerodynamic drag of the ducting and radiator, then the arrangement serves to reduce the net aerodynamic drag of the radiator installation. If the generated thrust exceeds the aerodynamic drag of the installation, then the entire assemblage contributes a net forward thrust to the vehicle.


F. W. Meredith was a British engineer working at the Royal Aircraft Establishment (RAE), Farnborough. Based on the use of ethylene glycol as an engine coolant, he realised that the waste heat transferred to the cooling air in a hot radiator need not be lost. The heat adds energy to the airflow and, with careful design, this may be used to generate thrust. The work was published in 1936.[2]

The phenomenon became known as the "Meredith effect" and was quickly adopted by the designers of prototype fighter aircraft then under way, including the Supermarine Spitfire and Hawker Hurricane, whose Rolls-Royce PV-12 engine (later to be named the Merlin) was cooled by ethylene glycol. An early example of a Meredith effect radiator was designed into the Supermarine Spitfire for the first flight of the prototype on 5 March 1936.[3]

Many engineers did not understand the operating principles of the effect. A common mistake was the idea that the air-cooled radial engine would benefit most, because its fins ran hotter than the radiator of a liquid-cooled engine, with the mistake persisting even as late as 1949.[1]

In America, the North American P-51 Mustang would later adopt both the Merlin engine and the Meredith principle, first flying in 1940.[4]

Around this time the Meredith effect also inspired early American work on the aero-thermodynamic duct or ramjet due to the similarity of their principles of operation.[1]

The Meredith effect was incorporated into the AIAA award winning design of the Cratus racing airplane by University of Kansas aerospace engineering student Samantha Schueler in 2012.[5][6]

See also


  1. ^ a b c d Becker, J.; "The high-speed frontier: Case histories of four NACA programs, 1920-1950," SP-445, NASA (1980), Chapter 5: High-speed Cowlings, Air Inlets and Outlets, and Internal-Flow Systems: The ramjet investigation. [1]
  2. ^ a b Meredith, F. W: "Cooling of Aircraft Engines. With Special Reference To Ethylene Glycol Radiators Enclosed In Ducts", Aeronautical Research Council R&M 1683, 1936.
  3. ^ Gingell, G. (Ed.); "The Supermarine Spitfire - 40 years on," Royal Aeronautical Society, 1976, Page 13.
  4. ^ Yenne, Bill: Rockwell: The Heritage of North American. New York: Crescent Books, 1989. Page 49, ISBN 0-517-67252-9.
  5. ^ "Student’s aircraft design wins top honor /". 2012-10-03. Retrieved 2014-01-24. 
  6. ^ "AIAA Foundation Announces Winners of 2011-2012 Undergraduate Individual Aircraft Design Competition : The American Institute of Aeronautics and Astronautics". 2012-09-11. Retrieved 2014-02-11. 
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