First Quiet Mach 8 Wind Tunnel in the World

First Quiet Mach 8 Wind Tunnel in the World

Purdue University has been awarded a $5.9 million contract from the Air Force Research Laboratory to develop the first quiet Mach 8 wind tunnel in the world, further solidifying the state of Indiana’s major role in one of the U.S. Department of Defense’s top technological priorities – the development of hypersonics systems.

Under the Air Force Research Laboratory contract, awarded in June, Purdue will begin design studies of a Mach 8 quiet wind tunnel to support hypersonic research and development and conduct risk-reduction and initial construction efforts.

“This award is one of a growing number of large-scale research programs enabled by Purdue’s ongoing commitment to national security research and the efforts of its Institute for Global Security and Defense Innovation,” said Theresa Mayer, Purdue’s executive vice president for research and partnerships. “Purdue has a long track record as a university leader in national defense and is establishing itself as a hub of hypersonic capabilities research.”

The Mach 8 quiet wind tunnel will be the first facility of its kind capable of collecting data at speeds greater than Mach 6. Collecting data at higher Mach numbers is critical to extending the understanding of flow physics, especially heat transfer and flight control effectiveness, as Department of Defense programs continue working to fly faster and farther.

Quiet wind tunnels more closely simulate flight and provide more accurate data than conventional hypersonic wind tunnels. A better understanding of when and how airflow over a surface changes from smooth to turbulent is essential in the successful design of expendable and reusable hypersonic vehicles.

Purdue currently is home to one of only two working Mach 6 quiet tunnels in the country.

The new Mach 8 facility at Purdue is to be an experimental facility. It will be designed to function at multiple security levels in handling proprietary research collaborations with government and industry.

“This project exemplifies the university’s leadership role in hypersonic capability research.  I applaud Purdue and other institutions within the state for their continued contributions to this critical national security priority and our defense industrial base,” said chairman Pete Visclosky of Indiana’s 1st District, U.S. House Appropriations Subcommittee on Defense.

The university will conduct the necessary research and risk reduction to bring the tunnel to operational capability within the next five years, said Steven Schneider, co-lead investigator of the project with Purdue research scientist Brandon Chynoweth, who will be responsible for running and sustaining the Mach 8 wind tunnel.

“Development of these facilities is a research problem in the control of laminar-turbulent transition, but success will enable reduced risk and increased performance in the development of multibillion-dollar missile programs that are increasingly critical for national defense,” said Schneider, a professor in Purdue’s School of Aeronautics and Astronautics.

The Mach 8 quiet wind tunnel likely will be built near Zucrow Laboratories in the Aerospace District, a university-affiliated aerospace business hub for companies to collaborate on research and commerce. Purdue has nearly 40 world-renowned researchers in hypersonics and among the most comprehensive hypersonics research capabilities in the country, including navigation, aerodynamics, aerothermal effects propulsion, autonomy, system engineering, high-temperature materials and manufacturing.

A consortium of military, government, congressional, industry and policy leaders met in late July at Purdue for the inaugural National Defense Industrial Association Hypersonics Capabilities Conference. Hypersonic defense abilities are considered “game-changing” technologies. With systems that can travel at speeds of Mach 5 or faster and are highly maneuverable, hypersonics are potentially very effective against heavily defended areas. Defense leaders report that U.S. hypersonic investment has grown dramatically.

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