New White Field facility to advance airplane design


Construction has begun north of the University of Notre Dame campus on a new, almost 10,000-square-foot engineering facility that will continue and enhance the Universitys long history of aerospace research through the use of wind tunnels and other simulation equipment.

The $1.9 million facility will house an estimated $6 million in experimental equipment in three areas, according to Thomas Corke, founding director of the Center for Flow Physics and Control (FlowPac) and Clark Equipment Professor of Engineering.

The new facility is expected to be completed this fall. It is located in what is known as White Field, the area used for parking during football weekends. The advantage of this location is that it is near an electrical substation that will provide ready energy for the facilitys experiments, Corke said.

Michael Edwards, assistant vice president in the Office of Research, said the new building is proof of the centers growth and success.

Since its inception, the business model for FlowPac has proven very effective, significantly increasing the number of active awards and funding for post docs, graduate and undergraduate researchers,Edwards said.With the growth of corporate support and external advisors from industry, the center has been able to expand the facilities and infrastructure.

The new wind tunnel, which Corke and his students have designed, is estimated to cost $3 million and weighs a formidable 45 tons. Its fan is 8 feet in diameter and will be run by a 1,750 horsepower motor. It will achieve Mach 0.6, t(0.6 times the speed of sound).The measurement section is a 3-foot-square cross-section; in combination with the Mach 0.6 velocity, the structure is a unique facility for a university, Corke said.

It will allow us to run our experiments at higher speeds, much closer to real flight conditions,said Corke, whose experiments are preparing for the coming generations of ultra-efficient airplanes, including pilot-less vehicles.

The wind tunnel is being funded by the Air Force Office of Scientific Research.

Two other facilities have been designed by Scott C. Morris, assistant professor of aerospace and mechanical engineering. A compressor facility now in the Hessert Laboratory for Aerospace Research will be moved to the new facility. This facility is powered by a 400 horse power motor at a construction cost of $500,000. It is designed to simulate the compressor stage of a gas turbine engine.

The new buildings third facility is a turbine that is designed to simulate the low-pressure turbine stage of a gas turbine engine. The turbine and an electric motor generate 800 horsepower. The estimated cost of this facility is $1.8 million. These two facilities were also funded by the Air Force Office of Scientific Research.

In combination, the compressor and turbine will facilitate research in new technologies that will increase the fuel efficiency, decrease pollution and increase the safety of gas turbine engines,says Morris.

About a dozen researchers and their post-doctoral, graduate and undergraduate colleagues will use the facility, although their offices will remain in such facilities as the Hessert Lab, also on the north side of campus.

The engineering schools most high profile expansion is the planned new building onNotre Dame Avenue, estimated to start construction late this year. But smaller engineering structures have begun to dot the north end of campus, including the new Multidisciplinary Research Laboratory opened in fall 2006.

In the case of this new structure, much of the facility is prefabricated. A bricked entrance area will include offices for visitors involved in research using the new facilities, a conference room and a model shop for constructing such items as sensors, electronics, and the small but scale-appropriate aircraft models used in wind tunnel experiments.

Corke estimates that the experiments in Hessert and the new structure would account for about 20 percent of the electric power used on campus if operated at one time. Because of the size and the high energy requirements of the wind tunnel, the structure also will contain a sizable cooling facility whose output could cool all of Grace Hall, he says.

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