Pride in Olympic cauldron burns brightly in Adelaide

Monday, 18 September 2000

When the Olympic cauldron rose high above Stadium Australia and burned publicly for the first time, most Australians felt a surge of pride.

But few felt it as keenly as a group of engineers watching the event on television at a suburban Adelaide house.

The engineers were members of Adelaide University's Turbulence Energy and Combustion group and its industry partner, Fuel and Combustion Technology (FCT), developers of the main stadium burner. The same team also developed the fuel and combustion system for the Olympic Relay torch and for the ceremonial Community Cauldron for the Games.

Adelaide University's joint team leaders for the design of the stadium flame were Dr Gus Nathan and Dr Richard Kelso from the Department of Mechanical Engineering. Dr Nathan said the lighting of the cauldron marked the climax of more than a year's work on the project.

"We're very satisfied with the final performance," he said. "The project has been very exciting for all of us, both because of the international attention associated with it and the technical challenges involved. "

The Adelaide-based team was selected by SOCOG (from a national tender process) for its expertise in combustion, aerodynamics and the environment. SOCOG required a specific flame shape for the cauldron, so a key consideration was the aerodynamics associated with the stadium.

"Our team specialises in the application of cost-effective modelling techniques to predict performance and develop designs with confidence," Dr Nathan said.

Wind tunnel testing of air flow over Stadium Australia was conducted first to assess the range of wind conditions to which the burner would be subjected. The aerodynamics associated with the shape of the cauldron was then assessed in the Department's water tunnel. A one-tenth model of the cauldron was then built and tested under tight security at the University's Thebarton campus. The flame was tested for its luminosity, shape, smoke emissions and stability at wind speeds of up to 100kph. FCT participated in the development and undertook the detailed design of the gas valve train and manufactured the hardware.

"Our close involvement with industry means that our team is used to maintaining confidentiality." Dr Nathan said. "We have a strong culture of openness and cooperation within the team but maintain strict confidentiality outside it. "


Contact Details

Professor Gus Nathan
Director, Centre for Energy Technology
and Professor, School of Mechanical Engineering
The University of Adelaide
Business: +61 8 8313 5822
Mobile: +61 410 477 411

Media Team
The University of Adelaide
Business: +61 8 8313 0814

Mr David Ellis
Deputy Director, Media and Corporate Relations
External Relations
The University of Adelaide
Business: +61 8 8313 5414
Mobile: +61 (0)421 612 762