The Air Force Research Laboratory awarded a $5.9 million contract to researchers at Purdue to create a quiet Mach 8 wind tunnel to help the advancement of national security and research.
If development goes as planned, it would be the world’s first quiet wind tunnel to operate at that speed, according to Brandon Chynoweth, a research scientist at Purdue.
The Mach 8 wind tunnel will hopefully go in the new test facility that is to be developed near Zucrow Laboratories on campus, Chynoweth said.
“It is called Mach 8 because it is eight times the speed of sound,” Chynoweth said. “To put that into perspective, that’s roughly ... if you were to fly from New York to L.A. in just under 25 minutes.”
Wind tunnels allow researchers to test models of aircraft and control flow conditions, according to the NASA website. Purdue developed the world’s first quiet Mach 6 wind tunnels in the past to design aircraft that travel at hypersonic speeds.
There are also already other Mach 8 wind tunnels, but the flow along the walls in those existing facilities is turbulent, making the air get mixed up and create a lot of noise, Chynoweth said. Purdue plans to develop the first quiet one and maintain a smooth flow near the walls of the tunnel.
“That allows us to make more accurate measurements of the heat transfer to the model that is being tested,” Chynoweth said.
Steven Schneider, and Hunter Ahlquist, a graduan ate student in the College of Engineering who came from the U.S. Air Force Academy, are also part of the research team.
“The large Mach 8 quiet tunnel is a chance to build something the U.S. has sought for three decades,” Schneider said.
Schneider has been focused on hypersonic transition and quiet tunnels for 30 years and is going to spend most of the time advising Chynoweth, who will learn the details in keeping the flow as it should be.
“It’s going to be a long process,” Chynoweth said. “It’s a research project to design a test facility. There’s a lot of risk involved, and we’re working risk-reduction efforts currently.”
One of the actions they have to take during the tests is pressurizing a portion of the tunnel. They will also be utilizing different cameras and sensors, and the tests will only last a second or two, Chynoweth said.
“We gather the data and process it after the tests,” Chynoweth said.
The project is projected to last roughly another three to four years, and they are also working in collaboration with the University of Notre Dame to help with design and fabrication of components, Chynoweth said.
The U.S. has to step up its ability to defend and deter aggression, Schneider said.
“It’s very challenging,” Schneider said, “but if we can be successful, we can do things that have never been done before and make a contribution to defending freedom.”