Major wind research facility set for Advanced Manufacturing Park

The University of Western Ontario will build a $23.6-million wind research facility in London’s newly established Advanced Manufacturing Park.

Known as the ‘WindEEE Dome’ the building will be the world’s first hexagonal wind tunnel.

The Wind Engineering, Energy and Environment Dome will be the first project built in the park and will physically simulate high-intensity wind systems, including tornados, downbursts and gust fronts that cannot be created in any existing wind tunnels.

The groundbreaking and announcement took place today (April 30) at London’s Advanced Manufacturing Park, a joint venture between Western, Fanshawe College and the City of London.

The land was donated by the City of London in Phase IV of Innovation Park on Bradley Avenue just east of Veterans Memorial Parkway. London provided 25 acres to Western, plus 3.2 acres that will have joint access.

Construction will begin late this fall and dome should be operational by June 2012.

The $23.6- million pricetag is being partly funded through The Canada Foundation for Innovation ($9.5 million) and the Ontario Research Fund ($9.5 million).

“This is great news for Western and for London, and it is the strong partnerships we have that have made it possible to turn ground today to put WindEEE in London’s new Advanced Manufacturing Park,” said Western’s President Amit Chakma.

“The facility will be world-class and will be a draw for others looking for close proximity to cutting-edge research and innovation.”

Guests joining Chakma at the ceremony included London Mayor Anne Marie DeCicco-Best, Ed Holder, MP for London West, Chris Bentley, MPP for London West and Attorney General of Ontario, Dr. Eliot Phillipson, President and CEO of the Canada Foundation for Innovation, and Horia Hangan, WindEEE Dome Principal Investigator. Hangan is a professor in Western’s Faculty of Engineering.

Hangan’s research focuses on wind tunnel simulations to study wakes, boundary layers, jets and tornado-like vortices. His work will further our understanding of wind flow, wind energy, pollution dispersion, and how winds affect structures such as buildings and bridges.

“We know the wind can be a creator and a destroyer,” says Hangan.

“We anticipate that researchers and industrial partners across the country and internationally will find a home in WindEEE and that together, we will find new ways to enhance the wind’s creative energy and ways to dissipate its destructive nature.”

The six-sided structure will be 40 metres across, and will contain a matrix of more than 100 fans, each about one metre in diameter. Together, they can create winds of up to 100 kilometres per hour.

Western is an international leader in wind research on several fronts. They include:

  • The Boundary Layer Wind Tunnel Laboratory (BLWTL) is a cutting-edge facility for wind tunnel testing and analysis.  BLWTL has contributed to many major advances in wind engineering since it was established in 1964.
  • The Insurance Research Lab for Better Homes is home to the “Three Little Pigs” project, where a full-scale home is exposed to simulated winds up to a category five hurricane. The goal is safer, cost-effective homes.
  • The Advanced Facilities for Avian Research (AFAR) is a specialized research centre home to the world’s first hypobaric bird wind tunnel that allows the study of bird behaviour, physiology and neurobiology.

Western has an interdisciplinary team of more than 20 researchers from several faculties working on wind engineering and wind-related research, and is the only institution in Canada offering a graduate program in wind engineering.

Western is also home to the Institute for Catastrophic Loss Reduction (ICLR) – a multi-disciplinary disaster prevention research and communications.

In addition to the WindEEE Dome, Western is pursuing a second project for the Advanced Manufacturing Park.

Western is seeking funding for a partnership with the Fraunhofer Institute of Chemical Technology in Germany to establish The International Composites Research Centre and to bring a large-scale press for testing and manufacturing lightweight composite parts for the auto sector and other London industries.

Western now has three research parks. In addition to the new Advanced Manufacturing Park, the Research and Development Park has its original 50-acre park adjacent to Western’s campus, and an 80-acre Sarnia-Lambton Campus.

The following three short animation videos were used in the conceptual engineering design process to simulate the capabilities of WindEEE.

WindEEE_one.wmv  – Downburst formation and dynamics of ring-vortices

WindEEE_two.wmv –  Tornado Core – Velocity field 

WindEEE_three.wmv–  Tornado Visualization – Streamlines coloured by velocity magnitude