A rectangular box with a purple section sandwiched between two red sections sits on a black tabletop. The end of the box is open. Black and red wires run out of the back of the box to a breadboard.

Improving Wind Turbine Testing With A Better Air Source

When comparing the efficiency of different wind turbine blade designs, [AdamEnt] found using a hair dryer wasn’t the best tool for the job. Enter his new 3D-printed wind tunnel.

After several prototypes, [AdamEnt] decided on a design that exploits slicer infill to create a flow straightener without having to do any tedious modeling of a lattice. Combined with a box on both ends of the straightener to constrain the flow, he has a more controllable air source with laminar instead of turbulent flow for testing his wind turbines.

The BLDC motor driving the air is attached to a toroidal blade of MIT fame. We get a little bit of the math behind calculating wind turbine efficiency and see a quick test of a blade placed next to the outlet of the air source at the end of the video.

If you’re planning on building your own wind tunnel, we’ve covered a few. We’ve even seen one that goes up to Mach 20, although that probably wouldn’t be useful for wind turbine design!

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Wind Tunnel Uses The Last Straw

If you watch the movies, there isn’t much to a wind tunnel. Just a fan and a tunnel, right? The truth is there’s a lot more to it than that, and [ejs13] shows you how you can make a small tunnel with some basic supplies. One of the requirements for a useful tunnel is to have laminar flow — that is, flow in uniform layers with little, if any, mixing. This tunnel achieves laminar flow using an array of soda straws to direct the flow. In fact, there are 150 straws in total. You can see a short clip of the wind tunnel in action below.

The rest of the parts are easy, too. A computer fan provides wind, and there’s a little bit of wood and acrylic. You’ll notice in the video that you can easily see the airflow. That’s thanks to a light source, some water, and a bit of dry ice.

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Victorian Train Tunnel Turned Test Track

Characterizing the aerodynamic performance of a vehicle usually requires a wind tunnel since it’s difficult to control all variables when actually driving. Unless you had some kind of perfectly straight, environmentally controlled, and precision-graded section of road, anyway. Turns out the Catesby Tunnel in the UK meets those requirements exactly, and [Tom Scott] recently got to take a tour of it.

The 2.7 kilometer (1.7 mile) long tunnel was constructed as a railway tunnel between 1895 and 1897, thanks to the estate owner objecting to the idea of “unsightly trains” crossing his property. The tunnel’s construction was precise even by modern standards, deviating only 3 mm from being perfectly straight along its entire length. It lay abandoned for many years until it was paved and converted into a test facility, opening in 2021.

To measure the speed without the luxury of GPS reception, a high-speed camera mounted inside a vehicle detects reflective tags mounted every 5 m along the tunnel’s wall. This provides accurate speed measurement down to 0.001 km/h. A pair of turntables are installed at the ends of the tunnel to avoid an Austin Powers multi-point turn (apparently that’s the technical term) when turning around inside the confined space.

Due to the overhead soil and sealed ends, the temperature in the tunnel only varies by 1 – 2 °C year round. This controlled environment makes the tunnel perfect for coastdown tests, where a vehicle accelerates to a designated speed and then is put into neutral and allowed to coast. By measuring the loss of speed across multiple runs, it’s possible to calculate the aerodynamic drag and friction on the wheels. Thanks to the repeatable nature of the tests, it was even possible to calculate the aerodynamic losses caused by [Tom]’s cameras mounted to the outside of the vehicle.

The Catesby Tunnel is an excellent example of repurposing old infrastructure for modern use. Some other examples we’ve seen include using coal mines and gold mines for geothermal energy.

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A cardboard wind tunnel

Optimize Your Paper Planes With This Cardboard Wind Tunnel

We at Hackaday are great fans of hands-on classroom projects promoting science, technology, engineering and math (STEM) subjects – after all, inspiring kids with technology at a young age will help ensure a new generation of hardware hackers in the future. If you’re looking for an interesting project to keep a full classroom busy, have a look at [drdonh]’s latest project: a fully-functional wind tunnel made from simple materials.

A styrofoam car model in a cardboard wind tunnelBuilt from cardboard, it has all the same components you’d find in a full-size aerodynamics lab: a fan to generate a decent stream of air, an inlet with channels to stabilize the flow, and a platform to mount experiments on. There’s even some basic instrumentation included that can be used to measure drag and lift, allowing the students to evaluate the drag coefficients of different car designs or the lift-generating properties of various airfoils. Continue reading “Optimize Your Paper Planes With This Cardboard Wind Tunnel”

DIY Wind Tunnel Aims To Educate The Youth

Typically, when we talk about wind tunnels, we think of the big facilities in use by the aerospace and motorsports industries. However, there’s nothing stopping you building a wind tunnel of your very own, and it may even be easier than you think! [Jude Pullen] has whipped up just such a design with DIY in mind.

Intended for high school Design & Technology (D&T) classes, it uses relatively simple materials construction techniques. The airflow straightener is built out of PVC pipes, and the end boxes built out of cardboard. The transparent walls for observation are created out of acrylic, while a simple fan provides the necessary flow. The desk-sized wind tunnel can then be instrumented with a manometer, tachometer, and anemometer to measure pressure, fan speed, and wind speed. [Jude] also explores experiments that can be run in the wind tunnel, such as working with a small balsa wood glider and measuring the lift it generates with a scale.

[Jude] has a very pragmatic and real-world understanding of such projects, too. He notes the difference between making things to measure, and making them to fit, and highlights the values of both approaches. It’s a much more holistic approach than simply berating students to “do it right” or “do it better” when making things in a D&T class.

Use of a basic wind tunnel is often not taught to engineering students until at least the second or third year of an engineering degree, after all the boring math and static analysis has been dealt with. However, there’s no reason high school physics students can’t understand the physics involved, and they’re more than capable of undertaking such a build. Starting such education early often nets huge benefits for individuals and their eventual careers.

Once you’ve got yourself a wind tunnel, you might want to start thinking about some flow visualization, which gets really exciting.

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Vapor Trails And Fan Make For Fantastic Photos In DIY Wind Tunnel

Every wanted a mini wind tunnel to check the aerodynamics of scale model cars, drones, or other small objects? Then check out [dannyesp]’s mostly-3D-printed DIY wind tunnel (video, embedded below). Don’t forget to also browse the additional photos in this Reddit thread.

A junk parts project doesn’t have to look like a hack job.

There’s not much for plans available, since as [dannyesp] admits, this device was very much the product of trial-and-error and junk bin parts. The video and photos are more than enough for any enterprising hacker to work with.

The core of the device is a large fan made from a junked drone motor. This fan is located at the rear of the tunnel. A small anemometer is placed at the front, where some 3D-printed baffles also work to smooth out turbulent incoming air.

The foggy trails of vapor come from a hacked-up vape pen. Vapor gets piped through some tubing to the front of the tunnel. There, the vapor trails are drawn towards the low-pressure area at the rear, traveling over and around the object on the way. [dannyesp] also mentions that the platform holding the object is mounted on a rail, which incorporates some kind of pressure sensor in an attempt to quantify wind drag.

We want to take a moment to appreciate just how clean this “junk parts” project looks — even though it is made from things like broken photo frames. All of this comes down to thoughtful assembly. A hack doesn’t have to look like a hack job, after all. We also love the little control box that, instead of having a separate power indicator, lights up like a little nightlight when it has power.

Hacking vaporizers is a fantastic way to create a small, portable fog machine. These can create fantastic costume effects like this smoking Ghost Rider skull. They are a great way to turn an off-the-shelf consumer item into something that cost quite a bit more just a few years back.

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Homemade Toy Wind Tunnel Blows (Really Well)

Sometimes a kid wakes up on Christmas morning and runs downstairs, only hoping to see one thing: a shiny new wind tunnel. This past December, that’s exactly what [SparksAndCode]’s son found under beside the tree, complete with a bag of scarves, ping-pong balls, and other fun things to launch through it (in the name of physics, of course).

The real story here starts about a week before Christmas, when [SparksAndCode]’s son was enthralled by a similar device at a science museum. At his wife’s suggestion, [SparksAndCode] got to work designing a and building a wind tunnel with hardware-store parts, his deadline looming ahead. The basic structure of the tunnel is three rods which support plywood collars. The walls are formed by plastic sheets rolled inside the collars to make a tube. Underneath, a Harbor Freight fan supplies a nice, steady stream of air for endless entertainment.

After finding a few bugs during his son’s initial beta testing on Christmas morning, [SparksAndCode] brought the wind tunnel back into the shop for a few tweaks and upgrades, including a mesh cover on the air intake to stop things from getting sucked into the fan. The final result was a very functional (and fun!) column of air. Looking for even more function (but not necessarily less fun)? We’ve got you covered too with this home-built research wind tunnel from a few years back.

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