MIT Unveils New Wright Brothers Wind Tunnel

Photo: Matt Shearer / WBZ News Radio

CAMBRIDGE (WBZNewsRadio) - It's now the largest wind tunnel at any school in the United States. MIT unveiled it's new Wright Brothers wind tunnel this week

"Everybody turns into a little kid when they get into a wind tunnel." Mark Drela, Professor of Aeronautics and Astronautics at MIT, said.

The original wind tunnel was dedicated in 1938, becoming a campus landmark used for education, research, industry and outreach. In 2017, the MIT Department of Aeronautics and Astronautics announced it would replace the tunnel with a brand-new facility.

“If I had one word to describe the state of the old tunnel after 80 years, it would be decrepit. The tunnel shell and supporting foundations, the instrumentation, and the drive motor and fan were all in a state of decay. The airflow quality was poor, and the tunnel was extremely loud and power-inefficient,” Drela said. “It just wasn't holding up against our modern standards of wind tunnel testing. Our goal was to bring our vintage tunnel into the 21st century and beyond, and we did that.”

The new tunnel is capable of reaching wind speeds up to 230 miles per hour.

Wind tunnels have been in use for more than 150 years and provide a controlled environment to measure the aerodynamics of an object.

"We expect aerospace companies in the area to come in and do testing," Drela said.

Wind tunnel measurements can be used to determine how much fuel an aircraft will consume, how slowly it can fly while landing or how much control the aircraft has in maneuvers. They can also measure the aerodynamics loads on ground vehicles or stationary objects like bridges and buildings.

WBZ's Matt Shearer (@MattWBZ) reports

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