New Notre Dame wind tunnel could revolutionize flying, national defense

Published: Nov. 30, 2018 at 6:14 PM EST
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Traveling across the country in under a half-hour may seem far into the future, but a new wind tunnel on the Notre Dame campus allows researchers to test the possibility of flying six times the speed of sound.

On Friday, the university debuted the Mach 6 quiet hypersonic test facility, the largest wind tunnel of its kind in the United States.

"What quiet tunnels do is they give particularly accurate simulations of what flight actually through the atmosphere would look be like in terms of the heating rates," said Thomas Juliano, the project's principal investigator and an assistant professor in aerospace and mechanical engineering.

The roughly 5-ton wind tunnel will also be key in testing for sectors beyond travel and national defense.

"There's also a lot of potential applications for space and so forth where you need to reach these Mach (speed) numbers even before you exit the atmosphere," remarked Bob Bernhard, vice president of research at Notre Dame.

The well-attended event Friday gave researchers and staff a chance to admire four years-worth of laboring hard to create history.

"You very much lose track of (making history) actually when you're working on a project like this," said Erik Hoberg, a second-year PhD student.

The new $5.4 million wind tunnel marks the start of a collaboration between Purdue and Notre Dame. Plans call for more hypersonic tunnels to be built.