Research | Queen’s University Canada


OTTER Lab: Measuring flow around moving objects with high-speed lasers

On May 8, 2015, the Faculty of Engineering and Applied Science at Queen’s University unveiled a new Optical Towing Tank for Energetics Research (OTTER) laboratory which studies how animals such as birds and fish move by using high-speed laser measurements.

The OTTER lab is used to perform high-speed laser measurements of the flow around moving objects. These measurements can have industry applications in areas such as aerospace, defence and renewable technologies. No real animals are studied in the tank, but abstractions of them are created, such as a simplified wing geometry, to determine how animals who are natural swimmers and flyers move. In particular, researchers at the OTTER Lab have taken an interest in wind-energy modeling, and the optical towing tank will be a key tool in improving the efficiency of wind turbines in gusty environments. In such cases, scaled turbine models are towed through the water-filled tank and the high-speed laser is used to visualize the flow field with micron-sized seeding particles.

The OTTER is a glass tank holding approximately 15 tonnes of water. As models are towed through, their wakes are examined optically with four high-speed cameras. In this way, performance in terms of propulsive efficiency and maneuverability can be studied, providing insight into the form of natural swimmers and flyers found, such as birds and fish. The new optical towing tank at Queen’s has a sealed roof, allowing for high-speed maneuvers of fully-submersed models, and enabling the measuring of details of the model wake to explain how shape and movement relate to performance.