Making Waves at Iowa
If you remember sailing toy boats on gentle waves across a pond, then you already know something about the University of Iowa's new wave basin.
IIHR--Hydroscience & Engineering (IIHR), a part of the UI College of Engineering, recently unveiled its new IIHR Wave Basin Facility.
The $4.9 million facility was constructed using about $1.9 million in internal funds and some $3 million from the U.S. Office of Naval Research.
The wave basin is essentially a high-tech, 40x20x3-meter "pool" for testing scale-model naval ships under a variety of real-world conditions. The facility will play a key role in helping IIHR research engineers test and validate its computer simulation codes for testing U.S. naval ship designs. Research conducted in the new facility will help keep the UI at the cutting edge of simulation-based design and help the U.S. Navy meet the challenges of the 21st century.
Larry Weber, IIHR director, said the facility builds upon IIHR's international reputation as a leader in ship hydrodynamics research and positions IIHR for even greater research prominence in the future.
“We have been conducting cutting-edge experiments in our ship towing facility for more than 50 years," said Weber. “This new facility will ensure our leading role in this area now and for decades to come.”
Fred Stern, UI professor of mechanical and industrial engineering and IIHR faculty research engineer and director of ship hydrodynamics, heads a team of about a dozen researchers who have worked for more than 20 years to develop safer, less-expensive techniques for evaluating naval ship design. He said that model-scale ship experiments conducted in the new wave basin support existing IIHR simulation-based design -- a virtual-reality process of ship design that will revolutionize engineering.
"We use petascale computing (more than one quadrillion operations per second) to solve very large-scale problems, ranging from how ships behave in storms down to how bubbles form in a breaking wave," Stern said. "We are developing different tools to handle these and other problems using our computational fluid dynamics codes for evaluating ship design (CFDSHIP-Iowa).
"I'm amazed at how far things have come. We're able to do incredible simulations. We can even predict a ship capsizing under extreme conditions. Our dream is to have simulation-based design, now that we have credible tools to replace the build-and-test mentality of ship design," he said.
Despite the apparent novelty of a major Midwestern research university studying naval ship design, UI researchers have a long and distinguished record in the field.
Since 1948, IIHR has been an important player in the enhancement of U.S. naval ship performance through research in hydrodynamics. IIHR's unique combination of outstanding resources, facilities, and top researchers promises an ongoing role for the University of Iowa in the front lines of naval ship design.