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September 2011 Issue
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Sport, industry boost from wind tunnel


Testing wind turbines for noise and efficiency, helping athletes enhance performance, assessing new designs for defence and aerospace industries...

These are just some of the benefits from the University of Adelaide's new wind tunnel.

The $5 million Adelaide Wind Tunnel, with wind speeds up to 180km/h, will offer a unique research and testing facility for many industries including defence, energy, aerospace, construction, automotive and sports.

Located at the University's Thebarton Campus, the Adelaide Wind Tunnel is South Australia's only industrial-scale wind tunnel and the second-largest wind tunnel in Australia, with both wind-engineering and aerodynamic test sections. It can be used to simulate objects in motion or varying wind conditions.

The Adelaide Wind Tunnel was officially launched last month by Commissioner for Renewable Energy Mr Tim O'Loughlin.

"The Adelaide Wind Tunnel is a unique facility for South Australia, offering new opportunities and partnerships for developing technology in many industries," said Deputy Vice-Chancellor (Research) Professor Mike Brooks.

"Because local industry previously had to go interstate for such testing, the Adelaide Wind Tunnel will provide a significant boost to South Australia's research and development capability. It will also draw further business from interstate and overseas to our State.

"The wind tunnel will support the University's research activities in energy technology and defence, sports engineering, acoustics and aerospace engineering. It will help South Australia push ahead with its clean energy development, and support our athletes."

The tunnel offers the ability to test different designs under repeatable conditions to measure drag and other performance factors, and to test structural performance under different wind conditions.

Examples of applications include:

  • Measuring the drag of a cyclist to assess different helmet and bike designs and posture;
  • Measuring how much energy wind turbines produce at different wind speeds, and how noise may be reduced by varying blade design and orientation;
  • Assessing the potential impact of a new building or other structure through altered wind movement and speed;
  • Testing the aerodynamics of various aircraft and aerospace structures;
  • Environmental studies such as soil erosion through atmospheric flow simulation.

Features of the wind tunnel include multiple working sections; a turntable; flow visualisation and laser diagnostics capabilities; 3D vibration scanning; and the ability to measure noise and acoustics.

The Adelaide Wind Tunnel was funded with support from the Premier's Science and Research Fund and the Sir Ross and Sir Keith Smith Fund.

Story by Robyn Mills

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The University of Adelaide’s biodiesel bike inside the Adelaide Wind Tunnel

The University of Adelaide's biodiesel bike inside the Adelaide Wind Tunnel
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