As the state of Kansas diversifies its historically aviation-based economy to include industries like wind energy and bioscience, Wichita State University’s National Institute for Aviation Research (NIAR) is following suit. NIAR is widely recognized by the aviation industry as a respected center for airframe technology research, development, testing and certification. With 255,000 square feet of space, NIAR’s laboratories (including composites, aerodynamics, full-scale structural testing, computational mechanics, crash dynamics and virtual reality) can also benefit wind energy technology.
As an FAA Center of Excellence for Composites and Advanced Materials, NIAR’s Composites & Advanced Materials and Mechanical Test Labs are at the forefront of advanced materials research and testing. The Mechanical Test Lab provides the highest standards in static and fatigue testing to generate material strength allowables and evaluate the endurance of materials subjected to cyclic loading. The lab is currently providing proof testing for a wind energy tooling manufacturer. In the past, these labs have been involved with the design and structural testing of wind turbine blade prototypes.
The Full-Scale Structural Testing Laboratory provides space roughly the size of a football field to hold numerous articles and associated fixtures. Typical tests range from full airframe durability and damage tolerance testing to single channel coupon or component testing. Although the majority of the lab’s tests involve aircraft, it has also performed static tests for wind turbine blades and tower reinforcements.
NIAR’s Walter H. Beech Wind Tunnel is capable of reaching speeds of up to 246 mph in a closed circuit tunnel with a 7’x10’x12’ test section. In addition to being the optimal size for testing business jet models, UAS models and small recreational vehicles, the tunnel can accommodate aerodynamics research and testing for wind turbine blades and other tower attachments to determine aerodynamic properties and wind susceptibility.
The technologies of these and other NIAR laboratories are capable of serving the wind energy industry in various capacities.