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February 20, 2017

Terraformer wind tunnel takes hazards engineering research to a new level

Next generation wind engineering facility draws researchers from all over the country; new tools provide information to help save lives, protect property

Wind engineer and 13th generation Floridian Forrest Masters knows how to ride out a hurricane. In fact, hurricanes have become his life's work. With support from the National Science Foundation (NSF), Masters and a team at the University of Florida are developing a world-class facility with new technology to help engineers and scientists better understand the high wind storms that batter communities along U.S. coastlines. This facility is part of NSF's $62-million investment in Natural Hazards Engineering Research Infrastructure (NHERI).

NSF-funding supports new tools, such as the Terraformer wind tunnel, which can dial up any type of terrain in 90 seconds, and a second high-speed simulator that can generate winds over 230 miles per hour.

NHERI has the broad goal of supporting research that will improve the resilience and sustainability of civil infrastructure -- such as buildings and other structures, underground structures, levees, and critical lifelines -- against the natural hazards of earthquakes and windstorms, in order to minimize loss of life, damage and economic loss.

The research in this episode is supported by NSF award #1520843, Experimental Facility with Boundary Layer Wind Tunnel, Wind Load and Dynamic Flow Simulators, and Pressure Loading Actuators.

Miles O'Brien, Science Nation Correspondent
Marsha Walton, Science Nation Producer

Any opinions, findings, conclusions or recommendations presented in this material are only those of the presenter grantee/researcher, author, or agency employee; and do not necessarily reflect the views of the National Science Foundation.