Propelling for more efficient testing

Ryerson’s newly renovated wind tunnel was officially unveiled to the public with an inaugural demonstration. The test subject? A plush raccoon attached to a propeller.

With the tunnel fan cranked to 80 km/h, a group of Ryerson students, faculty members, and public visitors gathered on Nov. 19 in the basement of Kerr Hall East to watch as the toy animal flailed.

The launch comes after over a year of renovations, most of which were focused on rebuilding the motor. In the previous design, the motor was internal and could only run for a few minutes before overheating.

Braham Raeisi, a PhD candidate of aerospace engineering at Ryerson, is currently doing research for his thesis focusing on ducted fans and their potential use at the wingtip of an unmanned aerial vehicle. Using the wind tunnel, he is able to measure the lift and drag of his models.

With a wind tunnel, results are received that are non-dimensional and can taken from there to be applied to larger scale applications.

The wind tunnel is meant to simulate true aerial conditions for testing UAV parts. There is a large turbine located at the end of the tunnel and an electric motor at the base, which produces a strong air flow. Within the tunnel, there are multiple sensors that account for temperature and wind velocity.

“The shell of the tunnel is quite valuable, but this old setup was not very workable,” said assistant professor in aerospace engineering, Goetz Bramesfeld, who originally proposed the redesign of the chamber’s motor.

The new external motor, with about 200 horsepower, can run continuously for long periods to facilitate more extensive and efficient testing.

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With the department’s support and funding from the dean of engineering and architectural science’s office, Bramesfeld led the revamping of the tunnel.

He said that people have long been questioning the longevity of wind tunnel testing, but argued that the practice is not an anachronism like some suggest.

“The truth of the matter is wind tunnel testing has become more important because people need the experimental data to validate their theoretical models,” said Bramesfeld. “We’re getting to that deflection point, where it’s cheaper to run a tunnel than a computer.”

Computational fluid dynamics, a digital testing software, have become more powerful, but use a computer cluster that can at times use more power than a wind tunnel.

Dylan Krcmarov and Charlie Wang, third-year aerospace engineering students who helped maintain the tunnel, said that they see the benefits of a large-scale wind tunnel on campus.

“You can have theoretical information and you can test it right here. It’s more convenient because you can do it right in the basement of Kerr Hall, instead of going somewhere else in the GTA,” Wang said. “Computationally, you receive quite accurate results, but [that] doesn’t fully model real world application.”

Bramesfeld said that December slots for the wind tunnel are quickly filling up, as more and more students complete their projects and seek to perform tests. External firms are also looking to use the new facility.

“Testing has become more important as computational means have gotten better,” said Bramesfeld. “For the students, having this experience gives them a unique qualification, makes them standout in the job market.”

There are plans to integrate the wind tunnel into the engineering program’s course material.

Photos by Sam Yohannes