Design, assembly and testing of an upgraded aeroacoustics wind tunnel facility

Richard R. Auhl, Dennis K. McLaughlin, Philip John Morris

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


The Aeroacoustics Laboratory in the Department of Aerospace Engineering at Penn State currently serves several areas of experimental research. Most notable in the laboratory is the Anechoic Chamber of which the Aeroacoustics Wind Tunnel is an integral part. In recent years the dominant areas of research have included model aircraft exhaust jets and model rotors for helicopter applications involving detailed noise experiments. In the jet noise area, the applications have included aircraft in both flyover and take-off configurations. In the flyover application the air flow surrounding the exhaust jet has a significant effect on the radiated noise and must be simulated to produce experimental results that will be most useful in preliminary design of noise suppression applications. The Aeroacoustics Wind Tunnel at Penn State serves the purpose for this simulation. During aircraft take-off, the aircraft airspeed is in a range exceeding 250 ft per second, or Mach number of over M = 0.22. In the years preceding 2022, the velocity of the free jet flow of the Penn State facility was limited to less than 200 ft/sec. This paper reports on a project to design upgrades to the existing wind tunnel to improve the test section flow velocity to values closer to the 250 ft/sec target. The approach began with a preliminary design of the return flow ducting to convert the open jet, open return wind tunnel to a closed return tunnel. The concept is to make use of the flow energy in the exhaust of the tunnel to boost the input energy to the inlet fan that drives the flow to the test section. An integral part of the preliminary design involved making use of an upgraded flow analysis computer code to predict the gain in test section velocity of the new facility. For the available horsepower of two fans in the facility, the configurations of the existing and upgraded wind tunnel were entered into this analysis code based on a quasi-one-dimensional formulation. The code included empirical data formulated to include the various shapes of the components of the tunnels. The relative flow velocities in each section used simple incompressible continuity to calculate all velocities in the component sections. The average dynamic pressure in each section is calculated from the flow (constant) density and the velocity squared. Each section had a non-dimensional pressure loss parameter calculated from empirical data (from the relevant literature). The basic code (using the Excel algorithms) was based on a predictor-corrector concept in which the calculation was initialized with the estimated velocity and pressure of the flow at the entrance to the test section. The loss in each following section is estimated to determine the loss in the total pressure and the cumulated loss compared to the gains made at the two fans in the circuit. The initial guess is adjusted based on the total pressure value at the end of the circuit. During the related experiments, measurements of the total and dynamic pressure were performed at several joints between sections and compared to the values predicted in the analysis code. Various settings of the horsepower of the drive fans were used and the results were compared to flow measurements for the tunnel configurations (predominantly for the open return and closed return tunnel setups available before and after the upgrade project.) Results of the analysis and experiments are presented and analyzed together with the remaining activities planned for the coming months.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)285-298
Number of pages14
JournalInternational Journal of Aeroacoustics
Issue number3-4
StatePublished - Jun 2024

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • Aerospace Engineering
  • Acoustics and Ultrasonics

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