News

Hurricane Simulator

Portable Device Simulates Hurricanes to Test Structural Integrity

Wind engineers at the University of Florida (UF) have developed the world's largest portable hurricane wind and rain simulator. UF engineers plan to use the machine to blast vacant homes with Category 3 hurricane winds of up to 130 mph, and high-pressure water jets that mimic wind-driven torrential rain. The goal is to learn exactly how hurricanes damage homes, and how to modify them to best prevent that damage.

Forrest Masters, assistant professor of civil and coastal engineering who is leading the project, said, "This simulator gives us the ability to test home retrofits and new building products aimed at preventing hurricane damage." Mounted on a trailer, the machine consists of eight 5-foot-tall industrial fans powered by four marine diesel engines that together produce 2,800 horsepower. To cool the engines, the system taps water from a 5,000-gallon tank aboard a truck that doubles as the simulator's tow vehicle.

Unlike previous, smaller simulators, the new simulator uses an innovative hydraulic system, rather than chains or mechanical drive trains, to transfer power from the engines to the fans. The water jets can simulate the most extreme rainfall of up to 35 inches per hour. State officials began to tap UF research for help in strengthening the state's hurricane-related building codes shortly after Hurricane Andrew in 1992.

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