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The University of Southampton

Winds of change: Southampton to join national wind tunnel project

Published: 10 January 2014

The University of Southampton is joining a new National Wind Tunnel Facility (NWTF) that will keep the UK at the forefront of aerodynamic and fluid mechanics research.

Three Southampton facilities will share in the £13.3 million funding for the NWTF, with £10.7 million coming from the Engineering and Physical Sciences Research Council (EPSRC) and £2.6 million from the UK Aerodynamics Centre.

The NWTF consists of 17 different facilities, including three in Southampton, spread across seven universities throughout the UK. The Facility will support research addressing problems in many sectors but with a primary focus on aerospace research, a key contributor to the UK's GDP. The facilities will be available for use by researchers and industry and will be able to simulate a wide variety of environments to build understanding of both low and high-speed conditions.

The funding for Southampton will provide an upgrade to the R. J. Mitchell wind tunnel, including a laser diagnostics kit, plus two new facilities, which are unique to the UK and Europe, at the University's new Boldrewood campus - a 138m long towing tank and an anechoic wind tunnel.

Professor Bharath Ganapathisubramani from the University of Southampton says: "These three facilities, together with the other 14 in NWTF, form a complementary suite of facilities that can be used by researchers here at Southampton as well as researchers and industry from around the UK."

The NWTF was announced by David Willetts, Minister for Science and Universities. Mr Willetts said: "This new investment will support research that is vital to the UK economy, including developing the next generation of fuel efficient heavy goods vehicles. This will create huge energy savings to businesses, as well as bringing environmental benefits. It is pioneering work that will help the UK get ahead in the global race."

Notes for editors

Notes to editors:

1. The new 138m long towing tank will be used for research across different sectors including understanding the sources of drag in turbulent wall flows and studying aircraft wake vortices,  as well as assessing the performance of renewable energy devices. This unique facility will be equipped with a towing carriage that can operate under a range of speeds, wave makers (to simulate wave conditions) and underwater laser diagnostic equipment that will enable measurement of flow.

The anechoic wind tunnel will enable researchers to isolate the sources of noise in different applications, such as landing gear of aircrafts to wind turbines. This facility will be equipped with microphone arrays to measure noise radiation as well as a point and planar measurement kit to isolate the flow features that generate the noise.

2. The Engineering and Physical Sciences Research Council (EPSRC) is the UK's main agency for funding research in engineering and the physical sciences. EPSRC invests around £800 million a year in research and postgraduate training, to help the nation handle the next generation of technological change. The areas covered range from information technology to structural engineering, and mathematics to materials science. This research forms the basis for future economic development in the UK and improvements for everyone's health, lifestyle and culture. EPSRC works alongside other Research Councils with responsibility for other areas of research. The Research Councils work collectively on issues of common concern via Research Councils UK.

3. The UK Aerodynamics Centre (UKAC) is part of a significant seven-year investment programme into the UK Aerospace Sector by Government and industry representatives. Focusing on aerodynamics as one of the UK's most prestigious areas of industrial expertise, UKAC has developed and guided the national strategy for the sector, which includes the allocation of major industrial research funds.

During the course of 2014 UKAC will be integrated with the newly-formed Aerospace Technology Institute, where it will continue its work to protect, sustain and grow the UK aerospace industry in collaboration with the wider community.

4. The University of Southampton is a leading UK teaching and research institution with a global reputation for leading-edge research and scholarship across a wide range of subjects in engineering, science, social sciences, health and humanities.  

With over 23,000 students, around 5,000 staff, and an annual turnover well in excess of £435 million, the University combines academic excellence with an innovative and entrepreneurial approach to research, supporting a culture that engages and challenges students and staff in their pursuit of learning.

For further information:

Glenn Harris, Media Relations, University of Southampton, Tel 023 8059 3212, email

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