Aerospace Case Study: Wind Tunnel

Swansea University’s Science and Innovation Bay Campus will house the new aerospace engineering facilities in the Swansea Bay Innovation Hub. The Swansea Bay Innovation Hub, along with the Engineering Manufacturing Centre, has been part funded by the European Regional Development Fund through the Welsh Government.

The aerospace engineering facilities will include a brand new, custom built £1.2million wind tunnel facility, provided by ATE Aerotech, which will be used in aerodynamic research to study the effects of air moving past solid objects. The new wind tunnel will be 18m long x 7m tall x 5m wide, and will weigh 50 tonnes. The test section will be 1.5m wide by 1m tall, with wind speeds up to 50m/s (112 mph). Compared to the current Swansea University wind tunnel, it will have three times the test section area, twice the wind speed, and will generate four times as much dynamic pressure on the test models.

The wind tunnel will include a state-of-the-art particle image velocimetry (PIV) system to measure fluid flow velocities in three dimensions, a high-precision three dimensional model deformation measurement system, and an automated turntable system for pitch and yaw angle sweeps. The tunnel design is a closed section, closed circuit system which is more energy efficient, quieter, and more consistent in air speed and temperature.  It also includes a novel, completely modular, transparent working section with high resolution balances and LED lighting which will allow for unparalleled access, visibility, and versatility.

This will allow the facility to be used for a variety of different activities and experiments, including  researching advanced 2D airfoils, 3D wings, model aeroplanes with working engines, wind turbine blade sections, and even small scale automotive testing over a wide range of flow conditions and Reynolds numbers.  In addition to high precision balance data for these tests, the PIV system will also provide highly accurate, quantitative flow visualisation capabilities of the air flow around the test articles, providing engineers with an in-depth understanding of the flow physics.

Professor Michael Friswell, Professor of Aerospace Structures at Swansea University’s College of Engineering said “We are thrilled with the investment in the cutting-edge wind tunnel facility, as it will not only improve the prospects of securing additional research grant funding, but it enables the College of Engineering to develop new aerospace R&D collaborations with current and future industrial partners.”

Dr Greg Coss, Project Manager of the Swansea Bay Innovation Hub said “Swansea University’s 2014 Research Evaluation Framework (REF) placed us as a top 30 research University in the UK. The investment in the wind tunnel and the other facilities within the Swansea Bay Innovation Hub will enable the College of Engineering to build on our extensive research reputation, by combining world-class academic talent with state-of-the-art equipment, to produce high-quality research and develop new products and production methods within the aerospace sector.”