The study of wind at Texas Tech began in 1970, following an F5 tornado in Lubbock that caused 26 fatalities and more than $100 million in damages. Since that time Texas Tech’s commitment to wind research has evolved into the National Wind Institute, a collaborative transdisciplinary institute that involves atmospheric science, economics, mathematics, civil, mechanical and electrical engineering, construction engineering, computer science, sociology, law and business. As part of our mission, we have several large research projects focused on wind hazard mitigation and other aspects of wind science and engineering.
The Boundary Layer Wind Tunnel is a closed-circuit wind tunnel capable of generating wind speeds up to 110 mph. It has an aerodynamic section and a boundary layer section. The boundary layer section is 6 ft. wide and 4 ft. high, and has 58 feet of upstream fetch for development of desired boundary layer flow.
Major instruments available in the wind tunnel include Cobra probes, force transducers, laser displacement sensors and a Scanivalve system for wind, displacement, force and pressure measurements, respectively. The wind tunnel is also equipped with a particle image velocimetry system and a smoke generator for flow visualization.
Testing has included wind-induced vibration of cables on cable-stayed bridges, traffic signal support structures and evaluation of wind loading on sign structures.
Fondly referred to as a "potato gun on steroids", this is the heart of the Debris Impact Facility -- a pneumatic cannon capable of producing simulated wind speeds over 250 mph. This facility is utilized to provide valuable impact reistance data by launching different types of simulated wind debris in a controlled environment.
The cannon plays an important role in researching effective tornado shelters for use in homes and other structures. The cannon is utilized to develop standards for safe shelters, and continues to be in demand for testing new shelter materials and construction.
The NWI Debris Impact Lab was selected for Popular Science’s “Most Awesome College Labs 2013"
The student-developed, versatile rapid-deployment 2.5 m meteorological observing platform are used to monitor storms and hurricanes as they happen and relay information in real-time to decision makers.
Called "StickNet" for its resemblance to a stick figure, the 24 platforms function as autonomous mobile observing networks capable of gathering a variety of meteorological information including dryline properties, urban wind flows, density currents, synoptic wind events and terrain-induced flows. Each platform can be deployed by two individuals in a manner of minutes allowing personnel to relocate to safer ground while leaving the instruments in place. This allows the collection of valuable storm data without risk to personnel.
The StickNet platforms have traveled to the Atlantic and Gulf coasts to observe multiple hurricane landfalls including Dolly and Ike in Texas in 2008.
The highest wind speed recorded by a StickNet platform to date is 115 mph during the landfall of Hurricane Ike.
NWI has two mobile Ka-band Mobile Doppler Radar trucks. These fully coherent, pulse compression Doppler radar systems utilize traveling wave tube technology and provide the ability for four-dimensional mapping of a wide spectrum of atmospheric phenomena with very-fine spatial resolution useful for both the atmospheric science and engineering communities.
VorTECH, located at Reese Technology Center, is designed to simulate tornadic winds in the mid-Enhanced Fujita Scale three (EF3) range or less, or about 150 miles per hour or less, the maximum speed of approximately 92 percent of all tornadoes.
The simulator uses eight large fans to suck up approximately 160,000 cubic feet of air each minute, while 64 strategically placed vanes surround the simulator to create rotation. The force of the wind is measured by dozens of pressure sensors applied to structural models. The data collected will contribute to understanding how tornadoes interact and damage a structure can help researchers develop building codes to improve the safety of structures.
WERFL is an instrumented 30x45x13 foot building and signal light structures located at Reese Technology Center. These structures, along with an associated data acquisition system, permit measurements of wind induced pressures and responses in natural wind.
The NWI wind library is home to one of the largest collections of wind-related material in the world. The collection includes Ted Fujita’s papers, reports and photographs, which were donated to Texas Tech by the Fujita family and the University of Chicago.
The collection also includes documentation of more than 100 wind storm events from throughout the United States.
Explore other NWI Research Facilities.