National Wind Tunnel Facility

Lead Research Organisation: Imperial College London
Department Name: Dept of Aeronautics

Abstract

There are presently about 150 wind tunnels in the UK of which roughly 75 are in the university sector. Owing to the dual funding structure of research in UK, these receive government support through a HEFCE teaching budget as well as from funding councils, industry and overseas agencies. This proposal relates to those facilities funded essentially, but not exclusively by research, and not those retained principally to support the teaching mission of individual universities. The basis of the National Facility model is primarily to focus resource on (1) fewer 'outward-facing' national facilities open to all UK-based researchers; (2) institutions demonstrating a symbiosis of facility and expertise and prepared to demonstrate best practice; (3) institutions that demonstrate a clear, on-going commitment to these national facilities. The number of partners in this proposal has been selected to cover a range of strategic facilities, and to match potential take-up of national facilities by researchers working in most areas of experimental aerodynamics primarily within EPSRC's remit. The National Facility will support research addressing multi-sectoral problems, although there is a clear focus on the aerospace sector. The proposal includes low- and high-speed flows (Mach numbers in excess of about 0.6) and justifies a subset of facilities of national importance to form the National Wind Tunnel Facility based at seven institutions.

In the low-speed regime, relevant to transport (road and marine), geophysical flows, urban environment, sport, and wind energy applications, the medium-scale facilities Cranfield, IC and Southampton form the basis of key innovation. These facilities will address such problems as drag reduction, vortex-induced vibration, aeroelasticity, gust unsteadiness, and dispersion in the urban environment. Laser-based instrumentation features strongly in these facilities (e.g. particle-image velocimetry, laser vibrometry) as well as high-fidelity force balances. A guiding principle is that these facilities should offer complementarity in terms of the types of experiment they will support: thus while Cranfield will support high-quality force measurements, IC and Southampton will provide expertise in new techniques such as tomographic reconstruction of PIV data. The low-turbulence tunnel at City is of international renown, being one of only three such tunnels in the world that can match atmospheric free-stream turbulence levels appropriate for transition research. The de Havilland tunnel at Glasgow will be supported to maintain pitch/heave capability with gust generation.

Owing to its significant contribution to the UK's GDP, it is essential that the UK maintains its dominant position in the aerospace sector, through the stimulation of innovation via university research in high-speed flows. Trans/supersonic tunnels at Cambridge, City and IC offer a unique blend of facilities and expertise to support UK aerospace in such areas as shock-wave/boundary-layer interaction. Ground breaking research in hypersonic flows is currently underway at Oxford and IC. These facilities enable research across a range of high-speed regimes and, together with high-speed laser diagnostics, will allow UK researchers to tackle future sector-relevant problems.

Planned Impact

Research in fluid dynamics and aerodynamics underpins many areas (e.g. microfluidics, complex fluids) and is of significant importance to aerospace, process industries and emerging technologies such as wind power. Investment will be used to effect all-round transformative benefit, to drive innovation across a broad range of sectors. Industry will benefit from ready access to scientific advances, which will benefit their design processes and product performance. End-users are cross-sectoral, aerospace, automotive, built-environment, civil, chemical, marine, energy, environmental, and medical industries. The proposal is aligned with major Government strategic priorities concerning the economy and jobs, for example, the announcement in July 2013 by David Willets of £60m investment from the UK Space Agency in the development of the British-designed, air-breathing SABRE rocket engine. Flows of large-scale processes or with complex boundary conditions are beyond current computational resources, and experimental studies can be used to not only confirm predictions but also to provide fundamental insights. The International Review of Mathematical Sciences 2010 (IRMS 2010) highlighted the UK as a world leader in fluid mechanics, especially the theoretical aspects. The best research often most effective when the complementary skills of theoreticians, computationalists and experimentalists are brought together. As research becomes more focussed at fewer institutions, as reflected in this proposal, in order to maintain internationally competitive research, the need for cost-effectiveness is greater than ever.

Leading research-intensive UK universities will pool expertise to create strategically important national facilities to rival our principal competitors in the US and EU. This will build intellectual capability by the fostering of young talent, researchers conversant with emerging technologies and trained in the sophisticated experimental techniques that underpin the science base. These exceptionally able researchers will progress to permanent positions in UK universities to maintain their status and underpin the pull-through from research to higher TRL across a range of sectors. They will also move to senior positions in industry and, owing to the ubiquity of fluid flow, will facilitate engagement with a broad range of end-users. For instance, the UK aerospace industry turnover alone is £20.5 bn, 17% share of global market, directly employing 101,000 people. R&D spillovers from the aerospace sector in particular have a major impact on the wider economy.

The research portfolio of all institutions is clearly relevant to a broad range of sectors as evidenced by the strategic partnerships of these universities with Rolls-Royce, Airbus, BAE Systems, Lloyds Register, BP, Shell and many other private and public sector entities. Industry will benefit from ready access to scientific advances, which will benefit their design processes and lead to improved performance of their products. Improvements to the efficiency of fluid-based systems can lead to huge savings in energy, with concomitant reductions in CO2 emissions. For example, we can expect wing designs with significantly reduced drag for both civil and military aircraft, flow control for autonomous systems, improved turbine efficiency and propeller performance in marine applications, significant improvements in the design of process equipment for the chemical, pharmaceutical, food-and-drink and oil-and-gas industries. In turn, the UK academic fluid dynamics community will benefit from the exposure to new problems related to the UK aerospace, automotive (including Formula 1), civil and environmental, marine, chemical and medical industries.

Publications

10 25 50
 
Description The National Wind Tunnel Facility (NWTF, EP/L024888/1, http://www.nwtf.ac.uk) is a unique consortium of world-leading facilities at the forefront of experimental aerodynamics and fluid mechanics. NWTF serves as an 'attractor' for the fostering of talent and providing focal points for collaboration. In doing so, NWTF provides a service that is greater than the sum of its individual tunnels and researchers. It is expected that each facility will operate as open access for up to 25% of available tunnel time, operating an agreed charge-out rate payable directly to the host institution by the researcher's grant / contract. The paradigm shift provided by NWTF offers an overall transformative benefit, establishing a world-leading capability across a range of engineering sectors while being cost-effective. The enhanced UK capability in experimental aerodynamics is available to all UK-based researchers. NWTF undertakes to provide a significant element of immediate training at its facilities. Although the research is multi-sectoral and of low TRL (< 3) there is an aerospace focus, largely because of the strength of that sector. NWTF is keen to foster international collaboration through the establishment of joint funding mechanisms. It also aims to establish closer ties with industry creating a pull-through of talent across a range of sectors. It therefore supports UKRI's and EPSRC's strategic objectives and the government's industrial strategy.
NWTF started on January 1, 2014 and formally launched at Imperial College on January 9, 2014 by the (then) Secretary of State for Universities and Science, (the Rt Hon) Baron Willetts PC. Originally, it comprised 17 wind tunnels distributed across seven UK universities. Total funding for the Facility was £13.3 m, with £10.7 m contributed by EPSRC and £2.6 m by the UK Aerospace Technology Institute (ATI). NWTF has recently been enlarged to strengthen research areas relevant to automotive and wind-engineering sectors and help develop cross-cutting enablers. It now includes a further six facilities, that is a total of 23 tunnels across 12 universities. The grant ended December 31, 2019.
Development of a new strategy and business model is currently underway, the latter to identify the role NWTF has and is playing in stimulating research in an academic-industry environment. International collaborations of similar distributed facilities have been generated at University of Melbourne and JAXA Chofu, Tokyo. Development of NWTF appears in the UKRI Infrastructure Roadmap, https://www.ukri.org/research/infrastructure/. A more detailed 2015 roadmap also appears: https://epsrc.ukri.org/research/ourportfolio/themes/researchinfrastructure/strategy/equipmentroadmaps/
Exploitation Route NWTF is being further developed with an industry focus and a greater emphasis on training.
Sectors Aerospace, Defence and Marine,Energy,Transport

URL http://nwtf.ac.uk/html/index.html
 
Description Our intention is to establish the National Wind Tunnel Facility as a national facility that provides open access to wind tunnel users across the UK. Researchers are primarily university based, although some commercial revenue is expected to ensure financial sustainability. Mid-term review was completed April 2017. The grant has been extended to December 2019. A key example on non-academic impact is the Common Research Model - High Lift (CRM-HL) is an open-source geometry, generic transport model developed by NASA and Boeing for testing across multiple wind tunnels to support Computational Fluid Dynamics (CFD) code validation in subsonic flows. Its introduction to the UK has been led by a joint Boeing-QinetiQ-ATI (£7.9 m) project, with the 5 m tunnel at QinetiQ being used to test a 3.5m full-span wing. A smaller scale, semi-span model is to be tested in the Department's new 10x5 tunnel in September 2021. An Imperial-led university project will include a further set of complementary tests using the semi-span model across a range of NWTF tunnels, at Cranfield, Glasgow, Southampton and Imperial. The new model and the data obtained from its testing, will be considered as a national asset.
First Year Of Impact 2014
Sector Aerospace, Defence and Marine,Education,Environment,Transport
Impact Types Economic,Policy & public services

 
Description Aerodynamics Specialist Advisory Group, Aerospace Technology Group
Geographic Reach National 
Policy Influence Type Membership of a guideline committee
Impact Better use of wind tunnels, more economic, sustainability
URL http://www.ati.org.uk
 
Description Membership of ATI Aircraft of the Future Specialist Advisory Group
Geographic Reach Europe 
Policy Influence Type Participation in a advisory committee
Impact Development of ideas for future aircraft design
 
Title Investigation of the Rotor-Obstacle Aerodynamic Interaction in Hovering Flight 
Description  
Type Of Material Database/Collection of data 
Year Produced 2017 
Provided To Others? Yes  
 
Description AGP showcase 
Form Of Engagement Activity Participation in an activity, workshop or similar
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach National
Primary Audience Industry/Business
Results and Impact Aerospace Growth Technology Partnership Showcase
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2014
 
Description Presentation of NWTF 
Form Of Engagement Activity A formal working group, expert panel or dialogue
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach National
Primary Audience Industry/Business
Results and Impact Description of motivation behind and achievements of NWTF
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2016
 
Description Royal Aeronautical Society 
Form Of Engagement Activity A formal working group, expert panel or dialogue
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach National
Primary Audience Industry/Business
Results and Impact Royal Aeronautical Society Wind Tunnel workshop
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2014
 
Description Talk at ATI Conference 
Form Of Engagement Activity A talk or presentation
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach National
Primary Audience Industry/Business
Results and Impact Description of motivation behind and achievements of National Wind Tunnel Facility
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2017
 
Description UKCRIC 
Form Of Engagement Activity A formal working group, expert panel or dialogue
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach National
Primary Audience Policymakers/politicians
Results and Impact UKCRIC workshop on CISC Cambridge
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2015