Purchase of Six Component Wind Tunnel Balance

Lead Research Organisation: University of Bristol
Department Name: Aerospace Engineering


The University of Bristol is developing a state-of-the-art experimental Fluid Structure Interaction (FSI) test Facility which will be unique to the UK and capable of measuring the static and dynamic behaviour of flexible structures in aerodynamic flows. Of particular importance will be the capability to capture simultaneously the structural deflections, the aerodynamic forces and the aerodynamic flow characteristics around the structure. Much of the hardware is in place to achieve this goal, apart from a six component wind tunnel balance which will enable the global (total) force and moments of the wind tunnel models to be measured; this proposal is aimed at providing the missing piece in the Facility. Although there are a number of wind tunnels of a similar type in the UK that possess a six component balance there are none that are set up specifically for FSI research, and the inclusion of gust vanes to generate controllable turbulent flows in the tunnel and a dynamic flight mechanics rig to enable model aircraft to be flown in the tunnel make the Facility unique.

It is proposed to purchase a six component overhead, fully digital, wind tunnel balance (WTB) which will be used to accurately measure forces (x,y,z axes) and moments (relating to x,y,z axes) that are experienced by scaled models in the University of Bristol's 7' x 5' wind tunnel due to both the aerodynamic flow and gust fields. The upgrade to a six component balance will enable full measurement of combined aerodynamic and structural forces/moments resulting from the Fluid Structure Interactions (FSI) of wing and aircraft models, complementing recent additions to the tunnel (multi degree of freedom flight mechanics rig and gust vanes).

The WTB will be a key component of a world-leading experimental FSI Facility that is able to support innovative blue sky and industrially relevant research both at the University of Bristol, across the UK's academic community and also for industrial users. It is intended that 30% of the time available to use the tunnel will be made available for external users from industry and academia. The unique capabilities of the Facility, being able to not only make simultaneous aerodynamic and structural measurements, but also to create turbulent (gusty) flow fields and to "fly" aircraft models in the flow, would make it an extremely attractive Facility for industry to use. The vision for the Facility, with the WTB as its key central component, is to develop a world-renowned experimental resource for FSI across the fields of aerospace, wind power (wind turbine blades), Unmanned Air Vehicles (UAVs) and wind engineering (bridges and tall buildings). By gaining accurate FSI measurements to validate numerical models and understand the physics of the structural and aerodynamic interactions, it will be possible to design more efficient and environmentally friendly aircraft and UAVs, wind turbines and wind-resilient tall buildings and bridges.

Planned Impact

The purchase of the six component Wind Tunnel Balance (WTB) as part of the development of a world-leading Fluid Structure Interaction (FSI) Facility at the University of Bristol will enable a range of different impacts that will be achieved in the following ways:

1. New knowledge will be generated from the multi-physics, detailed and simultaneous FSI measurements that will enable a deeper understanding of the underlying physics of unsteady FSI systems, the validation of numerical models, and the design of new structures that exploit the FSI to achieve more efficient and environmentally friendly aircraft, Unmanned Air Vehicles (UAVs), wind turbines and wind-resilient civil structures. This knowledge will be transferred to academia and industry via: scientific journal and conference papers and presentations, workshops and networking meetings for targeted audiences and also for those from other disciplines for who FSI can be important.

2. People - The FSI Facility will generate a significant amount of new scientific knowledge relating to the measurements and understanding of the physics generated from the tests, the numerical and computational techniques that are required in order to model the FSI behaviour, the design of efficient aerospace, wind energy and civil structures that exploit FSI interactions, and the test and data analysis techniques needed to get the full benefit of the Facility. Consequently, a range of different users will gain skills that will benefit their own careers - for example PhD students, post doctoral researchers, technical staff, external users from academia and industry - which will also benefit the UK by providing skills relevant to both academia and industry in this important discipline. Outreach activities for schools and the general public will be held to highlight the importance of FSI for aerospace, wind energy and wind engineering.

3. Society - The FSI Facility will focus on testing and enabling the development of structures that have the potential to have a significant effect upon the quality of life in Society both in the UK and world-wide. The impact on Society will be achieved by influencing research funders, policy makers and industry to exploit the scientific developments that will be achieved, through: development of new environmentally friendly aircraft designs, development of UAVs that are going to be very important in the future with many tasks such as monitoring of powerlines, pipelines, motorways, crops and parcel delivery etc., development of more efficient wind turbine blades that will enable cleaner renewable energy and help to meet future UK energy needs ensuring energy security for future generations, and development of new slender bridges and buildings better able to withstand wind forces. Outreach events will be held to enable the public to gain knowledge of the exciting work that will be done in the FSI Facility, showing how the research is impacting on their daily lives, and also encouraging young people to enter into Engineering as a career to address the challenges of the future. Other social media tools (YouTube / LinkedIn / Twitter / video links) will be used to publicise the work and science in the Facility.

4. Economy - The novel FSI test Facility, the work that will be performed in it and the resulting outcomes, coupled with the interaction of world-leading academics and industry, will enable a fertile ground for wealth generation and the development of new products and procedures, including helping UK industry to deliver more cost and energy-efficient products as a result of test results. For example, new UAVs and wind turbine designs will help support a competitive UK economy, and spin-off companies can be launched based on the technical advances achieved in the FSI Facility.


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