New Cornering Wind Tunnel turns heads at AIAA SciTech Forum

New wind tunnels are built now and again, but very rarely is a new type of wind tunnel constructed!

Cal Poly Aerospace Engineering Professor Graham Doig is at the American Institute for Aeronautics and Astronautics (AIAA) SciTech Forum in San Diego this week, introducing the recently-completed work of his former PhD student James Keogh in tackling a problem that has vexed aerodynamicists for decades - how to make a wind tunnel to produce an accurate curved flow of air over a vehicle to replicate the same conditions that a cornering car would experience in the real world.

To do so, Doig and Keogh invented a new type of wind tunnel that rotates around a vertical axis. They relied heavily on high-performance computing to simulate the aerodynamics and optimize the tunnel design before any parts were even machined or 3d printed at Keogh’s home university of UNSW Australia where the tunnel was built and tested in collaboration with Cal Poly.

In the experiment, air follows a curved path around a vehicle model and as a result the true cornering condition can be finally obtained for fresh insight into vehicle performance and dynamics. “Although the rig is a small-scale first prototype, the announcement of the new tunnel design at the AIAA SciTech forum this week has already made an impression on aerodynamicists from NASA and elsewhere” says Doig. “I showed the design to the aero team at a US car company recently and they were intrigued - it’s been a very long time since someone took a completely new approach to trying to reproduce these real world driving conditions so closely”.

So will we be seeing a new, improved mark II cornering wind tunnel at Cal Poly any time soon? While Keogh’s now busy with a new job at Manor Formula 1 team in England, Dr. Doig plans to continue working in this field as part of a new push at Cal Poly to have students tackle automotive as well as aircraft aerodynamic problems . The centerpiece of this strategy is the new rolling road wind tunnel test section currently being constructed in the Aerospace Engineering Department’s Low Speed Wind Tunnel, which is continuing to raise funds from donations as it transforms into a unique, modern facility. “Accurate validation of complex simulation results through physical testing, with an increased focus on properly reproducing proper real-world air flow conditions and turbulence - that’s what industry needs right now” claims Doig. “We see California’s rapidly-growing automotive industry in the news time and again, and Cal Poly is well on its way to having a modern range of facilities that will allow our students to get advanced, hands-on experience that they’ll need to secure jobs in the world of vehicle aerodynamic research and development”.

Read more about cornering aerodynamics here.

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