The University of Washington is awarded a grant to acquire a seawater flume with a force balance to upgrade the research facility at the Friday Harbor Laboratories. FHL is located in the Pacific Northwest, in the San Juan Islands, and serves a diverse community of researchers from around the world. This flume will provide all of the research productivity of the decrepit racetrack flume it replaces, and will draw new researchers to the labs. The automated multi-axis force balance will also leverage the excellent model building facilities at the labs. The instrumentation with this flume has not been used in comparative biomechanics research and will provide the most complete and biologically relevant force measurements for attached organisms. The broader impacts of this equipment will be felt at many levels and both long and short time frames. FHL is an NSF REU site and several mentors will make use of the new capabilities. Graduate education will be enhanced through the use of the flume in the Sensory Neurobiology, Biomechanics, and Functional Morphology of Fishes courses. Graduate student research will benefit because resident scientists will mentor students on flume based projects, and main campus mentors will also make use of the system. The flume is also one of FHL's most popular public outreach tools. During the open house and tours static models in the flume and organisms in flow have been one of our most popular stations. All of these effects are immediate and will be manifest upon purchase of the new flume, but there is also the long-term effect on the direction and quality of the researchers who are attracted to the labs. Our trajectory has, in part, been shaped by our outdated racetrack flume, with many users from different countries specifically coming to FHL to use that equipment. The new flume will attract a new researcher base and strengthen ties with the existing research community. More information may be found at

Project Report

The new, high-speed flume (water tunnel) was installed as the centerpiece of a flow investigation laboratory at the University of Washington’s Friday Harbor Laboratories. The flume is capable of generating very low turbulence flows at velocities up to 1 meter per second. There is an integrated dye delivery system that will add dye streams around a model or can put dye on the surface of a model to discover local flow characteristics. There is also a 5 component force balance that can be used to measure lift and drag on models placed in the flow. The frame that supports the force balance has an actuator that can alter the orientation of the model suspended in the flow to automate the process of collecting postural data. This frame is also a convenient mounting point for custom made fixtures for measuring flow forces. The flume was immediately used in teaching two graduate level courses, one in biomechanics and the other in fish functional morphology. In both cases students were able to incorporate model building and testing in the flume as part of an independent research project. There have been several inquiries from outside researchers about the flume and one active collaboration on stomatopod striking has been instigated because of the availability of this top-notch piece of investigative equipment.

National Science Foundation (NSF)
Division of Biological Infrastructure (DBI)
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Peter H. McCartney
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University of Washington
United States
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