ARCHIVED - Rolling road coming to NRC

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September 02, 2008— Ottawa, Ontario

NRC will soon unveil a "rolling road" in its 9-metre by 9-metre wind tunnel to help automakers and race car teams design vehicles that are more aerodynamic.

Officially dubbed a "ground effects simulation system," the rolling road features a 5.6-metre-long belt, mounted flush with the wind tunnel floor. The belt will fit between the wheels of a test vehicle, which will sit on rollers. "It's designed to simulate the movement of the road relative to the car," explains Dr. David Orchard, Group Leader of the Uplands Facilities at the NRC Institute for Aerospace Research (NRC-IAR). "Instead of the car moving along the road, we'll keep the car in place and move the road. It will rotate and generate conditions underneath the car that are similar to the real-life conditions when the car is in motion."

Artist's conception of the
Artist's conception of the "ground effects simulation system" or rolling road

One of the only full-scale facilities of its kind in North America, the rolling road will simulate speeds of up to 190 kilometres per hour. "What makes our system unique is its length, which will allow us to test large commercial vehicles and SUVs," says Dr. Orchard. "We can also use it to do 'drafting' studies for race car teams — that is, place a car over the belt and another in front — to measure slipstream effects."

The addition of a rolling road should help the NRC wind tunnel maintain its competitive edge with the automotive sector, which accounts for a large proportion of the facility's business. "In particular, we're getting a lot of interest from the automobile and commercial truck manufacturers as this will allow them to better meet demands for increased fuel efficiency," says Dr. Orchard.

NRC 9 m x 9 m wind tunnel
NRC 9 m x 9 m wind tunnel

The 9-metre by 9-metre low speed wind tunnel is located on the NRC campus near the Ottawa International Airport. In operation since 1970, the wind tunnel serves the aerodynamic testing requirements of government agencies, research institutes and private companies, while supporting internal R&D activities at NRC-IAR.

The wind tunnel is a horizontal closed circuit atmospheric facility with a large test section. Its fan speed may be varied and set at any value from 0 to 230 rpm. The maximum wind speed is about 55 m/s. The facility provides an attractive test environment for non-aeronautical subjects including surface vehicles, ground-based structures (i.e. bridges, buildings), oil rig platforms and wind turbines.

"The moving belt will allow us to test some things that we weren't able to before," he stresses. "The system will let us accurately assess the lift and drag effects of diffusers, the spoiler/underbody interaction, the underbody fairings and wheel housing — even the flow into the engine compartments. This will ultimately help race teams and auto manufacturers design better vehicles."

The rolling road will be "semi-portable" so it can be removed when the wind tunnel is used to test aircraft. NRC-IAR plans to install the system later this fall or in the spring of 2009, depending on the volume of testing in the wind tunnel.

Enquiries: Media relations
National Research Council of Canada

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