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Understanding ice, wind and waves

Canada Foundation for Innovation invests $6.7 million for engineering laboratories

By Susan Flanagan

Memorial will soon be home to the Harsh Environment Research Facility (HERF), one of the most advanced icing wind tunnel and wave tank integrated laboratories in the world.

HERF will be located within a new high-bay laboratory expansion of the Engineering building on the St. John’s campus and will support world-class research and technology development that is vital to the provincial energy and ocean technology sectors.

International experts

The HERF team, led by Memorial’s Dr. Yuri Muzychka, consists of internationally renowned experts in ice and harsh ocean environment engineering at Memorial, York and Concordia universities.

Working collaboratively, the multidisciplinary cold ocean team received an Innovation Fund (IF) award from the Canada Foundation for Innovation (CFI). The project is valued at $16,944,207. CFI is investing $6,777,683; the remainder is being contributed by other partners, including Memorial. CFI’s funding was announced on Oct. 12 in Winnipeg, Man., by Kirsty Duncan, minister of Science.

HERF will have the capability of providing realistic large-scale data leading to innovative breakthroughs in the design and operation of marine, offshore structures and wind turbines in harsh weather conditions.

It will allow the team to address the challenges and impacts of environmental hazards of freezing precipitation and marine icing conditions.

“The Harsh Environment Research Facility will enable new discoveries to solve key challenges.” — Dr. Yuri Muzychka

“Marine and atmospheric icing of structures affect many health, environmental and economic aspects of our lives,” said Dr. Muzychka, department head and professor of mechanical engineering in the Faculty of Engineering and Applied Science.

“HERF will enable new discoveries to solve key challenges such as those when severe freezing weather leads to power outages from iced power lines and risks to the safety of personnel and operations in harsh offshore icing conditions.”

The HERF team will also provide important new data and understanding for the development of oil, gas and mineral reserves in northern and Arctic regions.

A crushed ice block in Memorial’s current cold room research facilities.
Photo: Submitted

“Arctic shipping, tourism and transportation will undoubtedly increase in the coming years,” said Dr. Muzychka, explaining that HERF will be composed of a salt water icing wind tunnel, a shallow water basin, a sliding load apparatus and a field scale ice structure dynamics apparatus, capable of generating the necessary conditions for large scale icing problems and allowing for structural and wind load testing at very cold temperatures on a water surface.

“The HERF facility will prepare students to become tomorrow’s leaders to solve these future challenges and opportunities in harsh environments.”

Together with collaborators at Memorial, the HERF team welcomes the expertise of other partners, including researchers at the Centre for Cold Ocean Resources Engineering and the Centre for Arctic Resource Development.

Ice management

Through these collaborations, HERF researchers will gain real-world, large-scale data in ice and harsh environment engineering, including icing of marine vessels and structures; ice structure interaction and safety (ice management); and coatings and engineered surfaces.

“No other facility in Canada or worldwide currently possesses the unique capabilities of the multipurpose HERF facility,” said Dr. Greg Naterer, dean, Faculty of Engineering and Applied Science at Memorial.

Improving the understanding of ice-structure interactions on marine vessels will also help engineers improve the safety and response methods to accidental offshore spills in harsh ocean conditions.

HERF is also expected to include testing facilities to reduce future financial losses of ice-related damage, such as electrical equipment breakdown and power outages, as well as improve offshore safety through a reduction in marine and shipping accidents.

Dr. Yuri Muzychka is project leader for the HERF project and head of mechanical engineering, Faculty of Engineering and Applied Science
Dr. Yuri Muzychka is project leader for the HERF project and head of mechanical engineering, Faculty of Engineering and Applied Science.
Photo: Mike Ritter

Arctic, ocean and harsh environments

HERF will be located in a the new Arctic Structures Laboratory where space will also be developed in support of other related Arctic, ocean, and harsh environment research programs, including the study of ship-ice interactions involving wet, cold and sliding ice conditions.

It will also provide a climate-controlled environment for large-scale harsh offshore conditions, such as wind, moving surface waves, sea sprays and icing, with wind speeds up to 150 kilometres per hour, temperatures down to -30 C, and a 2.5 square metre test section.

“The HERF team will have a transformative impact on Memorial’s international leadership in cold ocean and harsh environment engineering research and technology development.” — Dr. Greg Naterer

The operational modes include testing models in a traditional wind tunnel configuration or with models floating in a wave tank, subjected to continuous or intermittent spray icing conditions.

“The HERF team will have a transformative impact on Memorial’s international leadership in cold ocean and harsh environment engineering research and technology development,” said Dr. Naterer.

“The project will significantly strengthen our infrastructure and expertise in ocean and energy technology development within Newfoundland and Labrador and Atlantic Canada, as well as research and development in atmospheric icing of overhead power lines, wind turbines and aircraft.”

Highest award in Atlantic Canada

Dr. Mark Abrahams, vice-president (research), pro tempore, says the CFI investment supports strategic areas of research at Memorial.

“Memorial ranks 13th nationally for this competition and received the highest awards in Atlantic Canada for the fall 2017 competition,” he noted.

“It is through the ongoing support of the CFI’s Innovation Fund that Memorial remains a leader in innovative research projects like Dr. Muzychka’s Harsh Environment Research Facility. I thank the federal government for its ongoing commitment to such projects, which will help ensure the safety of those who venture into harsh environments in the quest for natural resources or shipping routes.”

The Canada Foundation for Innovation announced more than $554 million in 117 new infrastructure projects at 61 universities, colleges and research hospitals across Canada through the Innovation Fund. The HERF project is one of two IF projects at Memorial to receive funding — read about the development of autonomous marine observation systems, or DAMOS, here

Pictured in the banner images above are mechanical engineering doctoral student Marjan Taghi Boroojerdi, who is being supervised by Dr. Rocky Taylor.


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