Lori J. Rachul
NASA Lewis Research Center's Icing Research Facility Celebrates 50 Years of Ice Protection Systems Testing
Cleveland, OH -- Icing is no longer a major problem for many of today's aircraft because of the ice protection systems technology largely developed at the Lewis Research Center's Icing Research Tunnel (IRT). Built in 1944, the IRT celebrates 50 years of testing in the oldest and largest refrigerated icing wind tunnel in the world.
The IRT was originally built by NASA's predecessor the National Advisory Committee for Aeronautics (NACA) at the request of
the U.S. Army Air Force and aircraft manufacturers to help solve aircraft icing problems. The tunnel was designed and constructed from 1942 to 1944.
Ice protection systems tests on propellers, engines inlets, wings, antennae and rotorcraft have all been carried out in the IRT. In
order to cope with an increased workload and to expand its capabilities, this facility was recently renovated with enhanced refrigeration capabilities, new insulation and new fan blades. Currently, testing in the IRT will include multi-element airfoil ice accretion studies; ice protection systems tests for aircraft wings and engines; helicopter rotor blades; and an aircraft auxiliary power unit.
The IRT is a closed-loop refrigerated wind tunnel with a test section that is six-feet high, nine-feet wide and 20-feet long. Though it is
similar to other subsonic wind tunnels it has a couple of unique features: a spray system that is able to generate a cloud of microscopic droplets of unfrozen water and the ability to duplicate the various temperatures and icing conditions aircraft may encounter anywhere in the world.
The Lewis IRT has operated on a continuing basis since June 1944. Its workload decreased dramatically when jet engines replaced propellers, but increased again to meet icing protection needs of modern transport and military aircraft, helicopters and general aviation aircraft beginning in the early 1970s.
In 1987 the American Society of Mechanical Engineers (ASME) designated Lewis' IRT an International Historic Mechanical Engineering Landmark for its leading role in making aviation safer for everyone.
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