Labs and Facilities

The Centre for Wind, Waves and Water has several laboratories and a range of facilities for teaching, research and consulting. The labs and facilities have been undergoing continuous improvement and upgrading. The facilities at the centre are:

Boundary Layer Wind Tunnel


A 1.5 kW fan drives the flow in a closed-loop configuration

The Boundary Layer Wind Tunnel is a new state-of-art facility in the School of Civil Engineering that will contribute to the university’s research portfolio in atmospheric flows.

The wind tunnel was designed to conduct boundary layer experiments for the study dispersion in urban flows, wind loads on buildings, wind energy, fluid-structure interaction, and atmospheric turbulence. The tunnel is available for research, consulting and teaching activities.

Featuring an impressive boundary layer section of 20m x 2.5m x 2 m (l x w x h), the wind tunnel is one of very few facilities in Australia capable of measuring high Reynolds number flows. The tunnel can generate flow velocities up to 100 kmph (62 mph) and fit relatively large scale-models over its 2.5m diameter turn table. The blockage tolerant section also allows detailed assessment of complex topographic areas (e.g. analysis of wind turbine placement). The tunnel is equipped with variable levels of fetch roughness so site specific turbulence characteristics can be simulated.

Wind Tunnel instrumentation

A range of instruments are used for measuring and understanding the behaviour of air flows in wind tunnel experiments. These include:

  • Particle Image Velocimetry
  • High frequency pressure scanning system
    Up to 512 pressure taps can be simultaneously scanned for measuring façade cladding pressures or for integrating pressures over the face of a structure.
  • High frequency base balance
    This is used for determining overall structural loads applied to a building's foundations or supports. Knowledge of the dynamic properties of a building allows a prediction of structural responses.
  • Constant Temperature Anemometry (hot-wires)
    This is used to measure the wind velocity at different locations in the wind tunnel. The miniature size and multi-directionality of hot-wires makes them ideal for pedestrian/environmental comfort testing.
  • Cobra probes
    Used for quick and accurate velocity profile measurements, the robust and easy use of this instrument makes it invaluable to our thunderstorm downburst research.
  • Flow Visualisation

Combination of roughness blocks, spires and trip board to allow simulation of different atmospheric surface wind profiles

Convection Lab

The Convection Lab consists of two purpose built laboratories measuring approximately 12 m x 7 m and 9 m x 7 m respectively. The laboratories are constructed with insulated wall panels and air-conditioning to provide a thermally stable environment.

The Lab is equipped with a variety of experimental rigs ranging from large and small side-heated convection experiments, thermal boundary layer transition experiments, sloping bottom tanks for reservoir related projects, and building thermal control and natural ventilation experiments. In addition, the Convection Lab has a number of Julabo water baths to provide precisely controlled temperature water for heating and cooling of the experiments, light sources for simulating solar radiation and for shadowgraph and Schlieren, optic and lift tables, and precision traversing mechanisms.

Both laboratories have low and high amperage power outlets, including 3 phase power availability, a compressed air source, potable water supply and floor drainage. Further, the Convection Lab has a number of high power pulsed and continuous lasers. Both laboratories also have door safety interlocks, laser barriers and laser arms to provide laser security.


Setup of concurrent PIV/LIF system for simultaneous flow and temperature measurements.

Convection Lab Facilities

The Convection Lab has a range of facilities for carrying out buoyancy driven flow experiments in enclosed and open cavities. Both transient and steady state experiments with qualitative visualisation and quantitative measurement of thermal flows may be performed in the Lab.

Major facilities in the Convection Lab include:
  • Concurrent or independent particle image velocimetry (PIV) and laser induced fluorescence (LIF) for flow and temperature field visualisation and measurement
  • Particle image thermometry (PIT) for temperature field visualisation and measurement
  • Shadowgraph and Schlieren for temperature field visualisation and measurement
  • Open and enclosed cavity models of various configurations over a range of scales
  • A range of thermistors, thermocouples and other ancillary measurement facilities

Differentially heated cavity model with pneumatically operated gates enabling start-up experiments following sudden heating and cooling.

Environmental Lab

The Environmental Laboratory is a recent addition to the research infrastructures of the School of Civil Engineering. It hosts a number of instrumentations and facilities for Environmental Engineering Research, Environmental Technology Developments, and Computational Environmental modelling.

envirolab panorama
Environmental Lab Facilities
Suspended Matter Analysis (Settling Column)

The settling column in the Environmental Laboratory is an innovative facility to study the dynamics of suspended particle matter in water. The facility consists of a column 60 cm high and a 16 x 16 cm base in which sediment is mixed with an oscillating grid, which allows control of the turbulence shear rate. Sediment concentration and oscillation frequency can be controlled, as well as the temperature. The column can be used with non-cohesive and cohesive particles, and with mineral and organic compounds.
The bottom of the column consists of a measuring section in which sediment settles through a small orifice on a diaphragm that separates the mixing control volume from the measuring section. In the measuring section, a micro-PIV system is used to take optical images of particles and to study several geometrical and physical variables.

The Facility is being used to study:
  • Flocculation of suspended particle matter
  • Sedimentation processes
  • Particle removal
  • The interaction between sediment, microorganisms and water
  • Aquatic biogeochemistry
  • Aquatic ecosystem recovery

Facilities for microbiological studies

The Environmental Laboratory is equipped with facilities suitable for mesocosm and microcosm experiments involving low-risk naturally occurring microorganisms, including inverted light microscope, automated cell counter, autoclave, incubator, and humidity- and temperature-controlled plant growth chamber.

These facilities are being used to study:

  • Dynamics of microbial communities in soils and sediments
  • Interactions between sedimentary microorganisms and agrochemicals
  • Interactions between mineral and microorganisms
  • Biocementation of soil
  • Ecosystem bio- and phyto-remediation

Facilities for chemical analysis

Chemical analysis of samples can be conducted locally in Environmental Laboratory through spectrophotometry. We are equipped a spectrophotometer and a microplate reader, which allows for ELISA test. A water quality meter is available for automated and continuous measurements of 11 parameters including, pH, dissolved oxygen, turbidity, salinity, total dissolved solids, ammonium, nitrate, and chloride ions. Handy test strips are also available for coarse estimation of certain chemicals, such as, pH, phosphate, nitrite, nitrate, ammonium, sulphate, calcium, zinc, formaldehyde, and glucose.

Computational tools - BRTSim v1.0

BRTSim is a general-purpose multiphase and multicomponent reaction-advection-diffusion solver of water and gas flows in variably-saturated granular materials; it can describe an arbitrary number of chemical species in the mineral, liquid, and gaseous phases, and an arbitrary number of microbial species.

Equilibrium reactions of aqueous complexation, gas dissolution, and mineral precipitation are described by the mass action law with equilibrium constants available from the EQ3/6 database. Any number of chemical and biochemical kinetic reactions can be accounted for by Michaelis-Menten kinetics of prescribed order, while microbial functional groups are described by Monod kinetics to account for electron donor and acceptor, and for competitive and non-competitive inhibitors. The hydraulic properties of the solving domain are described by a water tension-saturation model, while water flow and solute transport are modeled with the Darcy-Richards equation and with the Fick’s law for advective and diffusive processes in the gaseous and liquid phases, respectively.

For these characteristics, BRTSim is an extraordinary computational tool in soil physics and biogeochemistry, soil and water quality assessment and prediction, soil bio- and phyto-remediation potential estimation, and in all environmental engineering contexts where physical, chemical and biological processes co-exist and affect each other with complex nonlinear feedbacks.

Wave Flume

The Centre operates a state of the art wave flume which is able to offer hydraulic 2D model tests. Two-dimensional tests are used to optimize the design and verify the hydraulic stability of a structure under a range of extreme environmental conditions.

The subjects that can be studied in the wave flume include:

  • Breakwater design (toe and crest stability, overtopping)
  • Sediment transport
  • Wave run-up
  • Scour
  • Evaluation of marine energy devices
  • The flume is 30m long, 1m wide, and 1m deep, and is able to maintain wave heights up to 0.3m. Its walls are solely made from high quality glass panels which allow visual observation of the waves and models throughout testing.

    Site-specific bathymetries can be installed in the flume using aluminium frames and false timber floors. A beach is installed at one end to minimise wave reflection.
    Wave Generator

    The flume is equipped with the Edinburgh Designs piston-type wave generator, which allows generation of regular and irregular waves. The wave generator measures the reflective wave and corrects the paddle motion to absorb it. The resultant wave field is totally predictable even with highly reflective models. Irregular wave fields can be generated by empirical functions built into the Edinburgh Designs OCEAN software (including Pierson Moskowitz, Bretschneider and Jonswap spectra) or user defined power spectral densities. Spectral peak frequencies generated range between 0.40 – 2.0 Hz, equivalent to full-scale wave periods of 5 - 20 s.


    Wave height and water level measurements are made using resistance or capacitance wave probes, available in a range of lengths from 200 mm to 1000 mm. Complex turbulent flows and stresses can be studied through the use of acoustic techniques (Sontec microADV). All electronic sensor signals are logged using a multi-channel National Instruments DAQ system. A stereo PIV system is also available for fine scale turbulence measurements.

    General Fluids Lab

    The General Fluids Lab is located under the Boundary Layer Wind Tunnel. It has a total floor area of over 500 m2 including the Wave Flume facility and the enclosed Convection Labs. The primary purpose of the General Fluids Lab is for undergraduate and postgraduate teaching and for thesis and capstone projects.

    Major facilities in the General Fluids Lab include:

    • Pressure losses in pipes (Gunt HM122, 3 sets)
    • Self-contained hydraulic bench (Armfield F1-10, 3 sets)
    • Bernoulli Theorem demonstration (Armfield F1-15, 3 sets)
    • Small water flumes (250 X 75 X 5,000, 3 sets)
    • Medium tilted water flume (300 X 230 X 12,000)
    • Medium non-tilted water flume (400 X 300 X 7,000)
    • Large water flume (1,000 X 600 X 8,000)

    High Performance Computing Facilities

    The Centre for Wind, Waves and Water has a dedicated High Performance Computer Cluster comprising over 200 Dell computing nodes. This Cluster undergoes continuous upgrading with new computing nodes replacing old ones. In addition, the Centre has continuous access to The University of Sydney High Performance Computing facilities and the National Computing Infrastructure facilities.