A lateral shearing interferometer was used to measure the slope of perturbed wave fronts after propagating through free turbulent mixing layers. Shearing interferometers provide a two-dimensional flow visualization that is nonintrusive. Slope measurements were used to reconstruct the phase of the turbulence-corrupted wave front. The random phase fluctuations induced by the mixing layer were captured in a large ensemble of wave-front measurements. Experiments were performed on an unbounded, plane shear mixing layer of helium and nitrogen gas at fixed velocities and high Reynolds numbers for six locations in the flow development. Statistical autocorrelation functions and structure functions were computed on the reconstructed phase maps. The autocorrelation function results indicated that the turbulence-induced phase fluctuations were not wide-sense stationary. The structure functions exhibited statistical homogeneity, indicating that the phase fluctuations were stationary in first increments. However, the turbulence-corrupted phase was not isotropic. A five-thirds power law is shown to fit orthogonal slices of the structure function, analogous to the Kolmogorov model for isotropic turbulence. Strehl ratios were computed from the phase structure functions and compared with classical estimates that assume isotropy. The isotropic models are shown to overestimate the optical degradation by nearly 3 orders of magnitude compared with the structure function calculations.
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