The principal application to this sensor is in a wind tunnel environment. To date, there has been no other shear stress sensor that has offered sensing at the micron scale, while achieving accuracy independent of air quality and environmental factors. Our proposed sensor will help experimentalists measure and minimize important design considerations such as skin drag. Additionally, the increased information at the surface of aerodynamic bodies will help the computational fluid dynamics community validate and refine their models. Another possible application could be real-time shear stress measurements for morphing wing control systems. Wing designs which change shape depending on conditions are a new branch of research in the aerospace community. Real time shear stress measurements could become an integral part of these wing's control systems. With the proposed designs and our proposed sensors, wings could change their aerodynamic characteristics based on real time information from our sensors. Skin drag accounts for over half of airplane efficiency losses and a 5% increase in efficiency could have billions of dollars in fuel savings. Historically, skin drag has been difficult to measure locally due to measurement interference with important variables. Our sensor has little to no interaction with the external air flow, therefore giving the most pure measurement of shear stress as the smallest scale.
Once our sensor concept has been proved, we expect to be able to extend the shear stress measurements to watercraft. This could have a profound effect on ship and submarine design and ultimately increase their efficiency. As with the aerospace community, a small increase in efficiency could save billions in fuel costs. Another possible application could be in the energy industry. Coal, gas and nuclear power plants could benefit from pipe flow optimization or real time shear stress measurements. The monitoring of shear stress at a wall of a pipe could be the first indicator of corrosion or other fouling within the cooling system.