TRAIN rig tunnel at University of Birmingham
TRAIN rig tunnel at the University of Birmingham

The University of Birmingham’s Transient Aerodynamic Investigation (TRAIN) rig, which measures the aerodynamics of moving model vehicles, is one of 11 wind tunnel projects to share £23 million of UKRI funding.

UKRI is investing in the National Wind Tunnel Facility+ (NWTF+) - 11 individual wind tunnels, an experimental database, and upgrades to existing facilities to transform UK research capability in fluid dynamics. NWTF+ will deliver a network of world-leading wind tunnels, helping to address societal and industrial challenges including the generation of net zero technologies, advances in emissions reduction, and future technologies for transport, energy, and healthcare.

Led by Dr David Soper, the University of Birmingham’s TRAIN rig is a purpose-built facility for measuring the aerodynamics of scale moving model vehicles. This facility consists of a 150m track along which model vehicles can be propelled, in both directions, at speeds of up to 80 m/s – around 175mph. The facility can be used for all types of ground vehicle aerodynamic investigations and other aerodynamic investigations.

The TRAIN rig is a unique facility and an important part of our commitment to world-class research, education, and innovation for the global rail industry. We are very pleased to receive this funding, which will help us to lead the way in aerodynamic investigations and enhance our contribution to more sustainable transport.

Professor Mark Sterling, Pro-Vice-Chancellor and Interim Head of the College of Environmental and Physical Sciences

Fluid dynamics, the study of the movement of liquids and gases, represents a £13.9 billion UK industry, employing more than 45,000 people. Wind tunnels support this industry by replicating real-life conditions in aviation, aerospace, and environmental science. The development of NWTF+ will maintain and enhance the UK’s research leadership in this critically important field for engineering and technology.

The award forms part of a £72 million investment in new infrastructure projects. In addition to NWTF+, UKRI is funding: a new £34 million digital infrastructure for sharing and reuse of biological and biomedical science data; £6.8 million to scope a second-generation instrumentation suite for the European Southern Observatory’s Extremely Large Telescope; and an £8 million investment in the conceptual design of new technologies for next-generation gravitational wave infrastructure.

World-class facilities and equipment are at the root of cutting-edge research and our £72m investment will further accelerate innovation in astronomy, aviation, medicine and beyond. By working with our private sector partners and investing a record £20bn in R&D by 2025, we are making Britain a scientific superpower and creating the jobs which are so vital to growing our economy, boosting our productivity, and bringing prosperity to British people.

Chloe Smith, Science and Technology Secretary

Executive Chair of the Science and Technology Facilities Council and UKRI Champion for Infrastructure, Professor Mark Thomson, said: “Scientists working on research from life sciences to aircraft safety depend on access to the most advanced equipment and facilities. This £72 million investment in the UK’s research and innovation infrastructure will ensure the UK is at the forefront of scientific discovery. It will support our scientists in responding to major global challenges including net zero and food security.”

NWTF+ is made up of a hub: Imperial College London; nodes: University of Bristol, University of Birmingham, City, University of London, Cranfield University, University of Cambridge, University of Glasgow, Imperial College London, University of Manchester, University of Loughborough, University of Oxford, University of Southampton and University of Surrey.