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New wind tunnels being installed in CEI

The components for the first of two new wind tunnels to be installed in the new Ed Lumley Centre for Engineering Innovation began arriving late last week, much to the delight of the researchers who will be working with them.

Made by Industrial Metal Fabricators Ltd. of Chatham, the elevated 12 meter tunnel will run in a closed loop around the walls of a lab in the north-east corner of the CEI. With a 1.2 meter fan and a 30 horsepower motor, the tunnel will be capable of generating wind speeds of up to about 30 meters per second.

Mojtaba Ahmadi-Baloutaki, a PhD student in mechanical engineering, said he’s excited to see the new tunnel being delivered and assembled. His current research is focused on studying the efficiency of vertical axis wind turbines. Unlike the horizontal axis turbines that have been popping up around Essex County, the blades on vertical axis turbines actually spin in a horizontal direction.

The new tunnel will allow him to study the effects of such parameters as velocity, turbulence intensity and turbulence length scale on the “hawk” blade design he’s currently working with, Ahmadi-Baloutaki said.

“In reality, wind has a wide variety of patterns and we want to learn as much as we can about those patterns,” said Ahmadi-Baloutaki, who works under the supervision of professors Rupp Carriveau and David Ting.

Shaohong Cheng, a professor in civil and environmental engineering, was the lead investigator on a successful grant application for more than $98,000 from the Canada Foundation for Innovation that’s being used to pay for the larger of the two tunnels, which should arrive soon and will be installed in a lab right beside the smaller one.

Dr. Cheng said the medium-scale tunnel will be designed to accommodate the needs of research that will address wind-induced environmental, automotive, and structural issues.

“Wind affects our daily lives often more than we frequently aware,” she said. “From the utter devastation that was wrought by Hurricane Katrina, to subtle aerodynamic refinements of an alternatively fueled automobile, it remains apparent that research on the dynamic impact of wind on our environment is of significant concern.”

She said the region’s most critical wind-related issues include developing renewable green energy, improving automotive efficiency, reducing air pollution and designing sustainable infrastructures. The two new wind tunnels will help engineering researchers address all of those issues, she said.