Structural Health Monitoring
Research Area: Experimental Studies in Aerodynamics and Propulsion Systems
Since experimental investigation is an essential and indispensable step to validate the design of aeronautical systems, the Aerodynamics laboratory in the Department of Mechanical Engineering at CSULA has been upgraded significantly with the current URC grant and recent DOD equipment grant. The wind tunnels in this laboratory have often been utilized for the testing of UAV models and the validation of CFD-simulation results. The laboratory is currently equipped with the following hardware: (1) Subsonic Wind Tunnel with 28-inch by 22-inch test section (Figure 1 (a)), (2) Supersonic Wind Tunnel with 6 inch-by-6 inch test section (Figure 1 (b)), (3) Subsonic Wind Tunnel with 12-inch by 12-inch test section, mainly used for flow visualization, (4) Gas Turbine Mini-Lab for jet propulsion testing, and (5) Rapid Prototyping Machine for design and fabrication of test models. In addition, for testing purposes the URC utilizes the 50-ft hydrodynamic wave tank in the Fluid Mechanics Laboratory.
Research Activity: UAV Aerodynamics and Propulsion Systems
The larger subsonic wind tunnel has been upgraded with a fully motorized three-rotation axes (pitch, yaw & roll) model support and positioning machine, which also include a six-component sensor (lift, drag, side force, pitching moment, yawing moment & rolling moment). This new feature greatly enhances the capabilities of the wind tunnel to evaluate accurate aerodynamic characteristics of UAV designs. It is proposed that all future UAV projects will include model testing and validation of CFD results utilizing this wind tunnel.
The ZCorp-Z450 rapid prototyping machine is acquired recently to generate 3D models of vehicle designs or component designs rapidly. It can also be used to generate physical models for subsonic wind tunnel testing. The original three-component (lift, drag & pitching moment) model support and balance system on the wind tunnel is still intact and is ideal for testing UAV propulsion systems powered by batteries, solar cells and hydrogen fuel cells. Experimental facilities for testing hydrogen fuel cells and hybrid battery fuel-cell systems have been developed. These hybrid systems consist of battery, solar cell, and fuel-cell based propulsion. Experimental facilities have also been developed to evaluate various propulsion systems for the UAV projects. The Gas Turbine Mini-Laboratory has also been acquired to conduct performance tests of conventional turbo jet engines. This Gas Turbine will be modified readily to accommodate tests of other kinds of internal combustion engines, such as those powered by hydrogen or bio-fuels.
Research Activity: Compressible Aerodynamics
During the past couple of years, the supersonic wind tunnel has been upgraded with a brand new air supply system, including a powerful air-compressor, an air-dryer and piping. A fully motorized model pitching and positioning mechanism, a custom-designed Schlieren flow visualization system and a new data-acquisition system have also been installed. These new features greatly enhance the capabilities of the wind tunnel to support the following: (1) Aerodynamics and combustion in scramjets, (2) High subsonic and transonic aerodynamics of high-performance UAV designs, and (3) Supersonic and near hypersonic (up to Mach 4.5) aerodynamics testing.
Research Activity: Development of New Aerodynamic Test Facilities
The smaller subsonic wind tunnel has only been used for low-speed flow visualization. However, it has great potential for the experimental investigation of micro-uninhabited air vehicles (MAV). It is proposed to upgrade this wind tunnel with advanced magnetic levitation technology to conduct virtual flight control of MAV models in a wind tunnel. The 50-ft wave tank is relatively inactive, and can be upgraded into a hydrodynamic tow tank for conducting tests involving low Reynolds number, ground effect and wave effect. These projects, which are of great interest to NASA, will provide numerous opportunities for multidisciplinary collaborations involving aerodynamic, mechanical, electrical, and control systems.
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