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Thursday, January 15, 2004, Peterborough

Leading Wind Tunnel Research Taking Place at Trent

Unique cold temperature study looks at particle transport


Over the last several summers, Dr. Cheryl McKenna Neuman of Trent's Geography department has sported a winter coat as temperatures soared.

At -15 degrees Celsius, and "really, really windy," it was all in the name of research. Prof. McKenna Neuman was studying particle transport in cold climates using Trent's wind tunnel. To do so, the wind tunnel and the lab in which it is housed, was "chilled", making mittens an essential part of the experiment.

The thermometer reading is what makes this study unique, says Prof. McKenna Neuman, explaining that most particle (soil, dirt, dust) transport research has been carried out in warm regions.

"We have the international distinction of doing cold-air transport simulation," says Prof. McKenna Neuman, adding most people don't realize that some of the windiest places on earth are found in cold regions.

While wind tunnel studies of this type are usually applied to soil erosion problems in hot deserts, the cold-temperature tests carried out at Trent extend our knowledge to earth's polar regions, including Antarctica, and in a planetary sense, to Mars.

Prof. McKenna Neuman has recently published two journal articles that examine the physical transport of particles at cold temperatures in Sedimentology and Boundary-Layer Meteorology.

More recently, Prof. McKenna Neuman and her students escaped from the cold to work on beaches along the north shore of Lake Ontario to develop improved techniques for measuring the impact of soil moisture on erosion. The results from this field work, which parallels ongoing wind tunnel simulations at Trent, were presented at the Canadian Coastal Conference in October 2003. The remote sensing techniques developed in this work offer important improvements that will allow researchers to examine sediment transport processes over much longer time periods and distances.

While clean air wind tunnels are traditionally employed in engineering departments to examine wind stress on structures, for example, Trent's tunnel is one of only two sediment transport tunnels in Canada. These highly customized tunnels are rare even on an international basis.

Recently Prof. McKenna Neuman was consulted on the design and construction of a new sediment transport tunnel to be set up in Spain. Engineers from the company responsible for building the tunnel spent time at Trent and have used it as an archetype. However, at the University, the 11-year-old tunnel is always under development as a work-in-progress. The design of the tunnel evolves in tandem with research projects.

A recent addition to the tunnel is a constant temperature anemometer system that will allow Trent to foray into turbulence research. The equipment was purchased with a 2003 NSERC equipment grant of $97,000.

Over the next several years, the Trent wind tunnel facility will collaborate in a coordinated international study of sediment transport dynamics which will include water flumes and wave tanks.


For further information, please contact:

Prof. Cheryl McKenna Neuman, 748-1011, Ext. 1307

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Last Updated January 16, 2004