We present a novel flow-visualization technique utilizing reflective flakes in combination with color illumination. Three differently colored columated light beams are used to illuminate the flow, each color being directed from a separate direction. In this way, the color of the light reflected from the flakes gives an indication of the local flake orientation. The flake orientation in complex three-dimensional (3-D) flow is in general a complicated function of the local velocity gradient tensor, but can be calculated if the underlying velocity field is known. This has recently been demonstrated by Gauthier et al. [Phys. Fluids. 10, 2147 (1998)] using monochome light. In complex flow fields the distribution of flakes may, however, be rearranged by the motion, thus making the local intensity of reflection depend on both orientation and flake concentration. The color is, however, immune to the local number density of flakes inside the flow, making quantitative information possible. This technique is demonstrated by visualizing the finer details of vortices in a Taylor–Couette device.

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