Wizardry in a wind tunnel

9 December 2015

Researchers have officially reopened their multi-million-dollar Boundary Layer Wind Tunnel (BLWT) facility in the School of Civil Engineering. 

Wind tunnel testing and analysis provides planners with solutions to complex wind engineering problems at the project design stage
Professor Duncan Ivison, Deputy Vice Chancellor, Research

Qatar’s Doha Convention Centre, New York’s Freedom Tower, Kuala Lumpur’s Petronas Towers, and Sydney’s International Tower 1 at Barangaroo (currently under construction) were all tested for their feasibility and safety in atmospheric testing wind tunnels according to engineering researchers who have officially reopened their Boundary Layer Wind Tunnel (BLWT) at the University of Sydney.

Now a multi-million dollar research facility, the refurbished BLWT housed in the School of Civil Engineering is capable of generating wind velocities of up to 100 kmph and testing large-scale models in the test section measuring 2.5 metre wide and 2 metre tall.

The boundary layer wind tunnel is designed to simulate the layer of wind closest to Earth’s surface - approximately the first few hundred metres - known as the atmospheric surface layer.

Professor John Patterson, Director, Centre for Wind, Waves and Water explains:

“How a structure will respond to variant wind forces within this layer is vital to the planning and building of safe buildings.

“We can build scale models of urban structures in the refurbished BLWT and subject them to wind gusts specific to their local region to gather data for research and testing of a structure’s response to wind loads.

“By analysing wind tunnel data researchers can reveal the dynamics and properties of wind-structure interaction, helping to predict how buildings will behave under fluctuating wind conditions.

If deemed unsafe designers can modify their plans.”

Professor Duncan Ivison, Deputy Vice Chancellor, Research says:

“Civil engineering researchers have contributed significantly to the understanding of wind engineering and have carried out innovative studies on cross-disciplinary engineering problems involving fluid mechanics.

“Wind tunnel testing and analysis provides planners with solutions to complex wind engineering problems at the project design stage,” said Professor Ivison.

“For example, wind tunnel experiments can advise on optimal placement of wind turbines within a proposed site by performing measurements over the site’s scaled topology. Such information not only provides critical insight into the design needs of the structures that can best withstand local wind conditions but also guides estimates of energy output from the turbines.”

“One of only a handful of wind tunnels in Australia, the BLWT provides a great opportunity for University researchers to work in collaboration with industry partners and wind researchers across Australia on projects including the study of wind turbines, solar farms and atmospheric dispersion,” Professor Ivison says.


Victoria Hollick

Media and Public Relations Adviser
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