Fluid Mechanics and Structures

Fluid Mechanics & Structures

Fluid mechanics, the study of fluid behavior at rest and in motion, is at the core of nearly all IIHR research. IIHR uses the basic governing equations of fluid mechanics to investigate a wide range of applications—river flow, atmospheric conditions, renewable energy (e.g., wind and water turbines), ship hydrodynamics, biological systems, and much more. For most of these applications, IIHR researchers use numerical analysis (computational fluid dynamics, or CFD) to explore and solve fluid flow problems. They validate these models with data from experimental modeling, field work, or environmental sensors.

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IIHR’s ship hydrodynamics program is one of the institute’s largest and most successful programs. The program launched in 1954 with early experiments in the institute’s towing tank. Today, the program takes a three-pronged approach—experimental modeling in IIHR’s towing tank and wave basin; computational modeling (CFD); and uncertainty analysis.

Cities rely on underground conveyance systems to move rainwater and wastewater to treatment plants or storage facilities. Many older systems are in poor repair and taxed far beyond their original capacity, resulting in flooding and the release of untreated sewage into waterways during heavy rainfall events. Since the early 1980s, IIHR has played a leading role in the design and modeling of sophisticated combined sewer overflow systems that can solve these problems. Explore these and other projects on IIHR’s Engineering Services website.

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IIHR has the expertise and physical resources to model any natural or manmade structure. Besides hydropower dams and power plants, IIHR researchers frequently model sediment around structures, such as culverts, bridge piers, and erosion control structures. Some of these projects are also included on IIHR’s Engineering Services website.

Renewable Energy

IIHR has been involved in research related to hydropower since the institute’s first scale model study of the Keokuk Dam in 1924. Since then, the lab has participated in a wide range of renewable energy-related activities, primarily in three main areas

Water rushes through the McNary Dam Hydropower Plant.

Hydropower Industry (1920s to present)—Physical and computational modeling related to sediment, energy generation, erosion and deposition, fish passage, and other ecological impacts.

Colorful simulation of water flowing through the forebay of a power plant

Thermal pollution studies for for water-cooled power plants (mid- to late-20th century) with sediment intake concerns or water temperature pollution.

A researcher in a hard hat climbs up a ladder of a wind turbine.

General CFD modeling, including models to help operators investigate the impact of wind turbines on wildlife (2000–present).