Innovative Wind Tunnel Testing for the Princess Elisabeth Station

The von Karman Institute for Fluid Dynamics, situated in Sint-Genesius-Rode, has helped to design the first Zero-Emission Research Station on Antarctica using innovative testing in the VKI L-1 wind tunnel, the largest facility in Belgium, with a 20m long test section and wind speeds up to 220 km/hr. To include wind as one of the main design drivers since the start of the project was an innovative choice of the International Polar Foundation. More than 40 years ago, the Belgian Baudouin Base had to be abandoned after it was completely covered by snow.

 

Wind actions on Belgian Polar Station studied by computer and wind tunnel simulationsWind actions on Belgian Polar Station studied by computer and wind tunnel simulations
Wind actions on Belgian Polar Station studied by computer and wind tunnel simulations

Wind tunnel testing and computer simulations have helped to minimize snow accumulation and wind loading. The optimum position and elevation of the main building above the granite ridge was determined with respect to the dominating Eastern winds. The positioning of the garage roof below the ridge appeared crucial for the entire Station. In the final design phase, the main building was modified from octagonal, like in the Station’s logo, to a more square-shape, to uniform snow deposition behind the garage.

Reduced snow accumulation thanks to building shape and pillar height optimization Reduced snow accumulation thanks to building shape and pillar height optimization
Reduced snow accumulation thanks to building shape and pillar height optimization

von Karman Institute engineers have innovatively chosen sand to simulate antarctic blizzards in the wind tunnel, calibrating it against real snow patterns observed on site.  Nine months after construction no snow has accumulated over and around the Station. Snow deposits uniformly on the leeward side of the garage as predicted by wind tunnel tests.

For further information and visits, please contact: Jeroen van Beeck, Professor, Phone: +32 2 359 96 23 & Philippe Planquart, Engineer