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Water Tunnel Makes for Exacting Hydrodynamics for Product Testing

New facility for hydrodynamics testing. Water tunnel research applications include race car aerodynamics, fuel efficiency, aerospace experiments, submarine/surface vessel efficiency, swimwear efficiency, baseball bat, golf club and cycling aerodynamics, fish schooling and soil erosion.

The Mechanical Engineering Motorsports Center in the William States Lee College of Engineering will unveil the fifth largest and newest water tunnel in the United States, Friday, May 29. Of the several hundred water tunnels in the country, UNC Charlotte’s is ranked with tunnels at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology and U.S. Naval facilities.

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The tunnel has been under construction for more than a year, holds thousands of gallons of water and has taken more than 5,000 man hours to build to its current state. Assistant professor, Peter Tkacik, his Ph.D. student, Sam Hellman, research lab manager, Luke Woroniecki and Clemson University student Patrick Tkacik are credited with most of the construction.

Weighing 57,000 pounds with approximately three-and-a-half miles of welded bead in the tunnel, the performance of UNC Charlotte’s water tunnel surpassed tunnels at the University of Minnesota and NASA Dryden. Currently, the water tunnel has a flow rate of 1,000 liters per second and trials have only reached 60 percent of rated speed.

Since the days of Leonardo da Vinci, water tunnels have been in use for fluid flow research, specifically to observe how moving water flows around submerged objects. The information applies to air and other fluids. Water tunnels also increase the understanding of data from wind tunnel research.

The tunnel features a 3 feet square by 10 feet long test section with thick glass surrounding the front, back and bottom to allow for laser measurements and easy viewing. The section is large enough to observe a person swimming.

Water tunnel research applications include the study of race car aerodynamics, fuel efficiency, aerospace experiments, submarine/surface vessel efficiency as well as sports applications including swimwear efficiency, baseball bat, golf club and cycling aerodynamics and environmental studies such as fish schooling and soil erosion.

Ben Mohler | Newswise Science News
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