Hydraulics laboratory

The Hele-Shaw hydraulics laboratory is a University facility specialising in fluid mechanics teaching and research. It houses the University's capability in low viscosity liquids and multi-phase interactions between liquid and gas.

The large permanent research infrastructure items are multi-use in particular the 15 metre flume which has the potential to be used as a density-stratified shear flume, a tidal flow tank, a towing tank, and a wave machine. It is also capable of being partitioned into smaller cubicles for undergraduate and graduate teaching.

Other unique facilities include a 14 metre high bi-directional vertical multi-phase flume and an electrically actuated camera mount to follow flow features such as rising gas bubbles and fluorescent dyes. The height is also used to achieve high accelerations from a free-falling test-cell containing fluids of different densities.

A one metre diameter rotating table enables laboratory-scale replication of terrestrial Coriolis forces that influence atmosphere and ocean dynamics. A vertical water-tunnel fits onto this rotating table, and has been used to study turbulent jets under the influence of rotation.

Other technology available in this lab includes multi-level particle image velocimetry for recreating three-dimensional velocity fields from particle motion in a liquid. The lab also houses real-time image processing for high resolution video tracking and flow control of fast-moving liquids and gas bubbles, and full three-dimensional measurement of density fluctuations using a generalised synthetic schlieren technique and a tracking camera.

For direct optical measurement of molecular mixing for reacting flows, a technique has been developed based on two-colour fluorescent imaging that optically identifies the reaction front through a quantum shift in fluorescent emission wavelength. The in-house massively parallel fluid flow solver, MOBILE is a key tool for understanding fluid mechanics, and is used extensively by collaborators worldwide.

In Bristol, research is ongoing into bubble nucleation and instabilities in their coalescence, coastal wave dynamics, oceanic internal waves, atmospheric waves in rotating systems, studies on molecular mixing between miscible fluids, and the dynamics of immiscible fluids subject to rapid acceleration.

Beach protection tests using one of the tilting flumes
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