The University of Iowa

Annual Report 2010-2011

Out Front logo--The University of Iowa
wave basin at IIHR

Set sail on micro scale

IIHR–Hydroscience & Engineering unveils $4.9 million wave basin

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, unveiled its new IIHR Wave Basin Facility in late 2010. 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, says 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," says 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, 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 says. "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 says.

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