Aerospace and Mechanical Engineering
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Directory of Akerman Hall Labs and Supporting Facilities


Research Facilities

The AEM Department is home to high-caliber research laboratories that provide a place for research and training. The facilities below are organized by discipline.

Fluid Mechanics

Laboratory for Complex Flows

The Laboratory for Complex Flows investigates fundamental gas and liquid flows. Among the prominent areas of focus are turbulent particle-laden gas flows, liquid/liquid mixtures with surface tension, turbulent boundary layers and jets, and fluid/structure interactions in MEMS devices.  This lab contains laser and camera equipment used for flow visualization and particle image velocimetry (PIV).

View compete information on the Laboratory for Complex Flows.

Turbulent Shear Flow Laboratory

The Turbulent Shear Flow Laboratory specializes in the study of turbulent shear flows. It is home to two large wind tunnels and one small portable wind tunnel. The large tunnels are designed for turbulent boundary layer experiments and are fully instrumented for automated measurements. Each tunnel contains a strain gauge balance that can measure three forces and the three related moments. The large closed return tunnel is capable of airspeeds up to 100 mph, and the small open return tunnel has a maximum of 90 mph.

View complete information on the Turbulent Shear Flow Laboratory.

Turbulent Water Channel and Flying PIV System Laboratory

The Turbulent Water Channel and Flying PIV System Laboratory is aimed at a cross-disciplinary approach to understanding turbulent flows, pairing experts in data visualization with experts in fluid mechanics. This lab houses a dual stereo-PIV system to provide three-dimensional velocity field data.   This lab is also involved with the development of multivariate visualization methods for the data sets of these experiments. Proposed experiments for this system involve real-time tracking of “vortex packets,” structures identified as a key mechanism in the skin-friction drag producing events in these flows.

View complete information on the Turbulent Water Channel and Flying PIV System Laboratory.

Computational Hypersonics Research Laboratory

The Computational Hypersonics Research Laboratory focuses on developing tools to diagnose damage to spacecraft in flight and to design more efficient hypersonic engines. The center is a partnership with the Calspan-University of Buffalo Research Center (CUBRC) in Buffalo, NY.  Researchers use mathematics to simulate rates of heat transfer in re-entry spacecraft and then test these predictions with wind tunnel experiments. One goal of the center is to help prevent tragedies like the loss of the space shuttle Columbia. A second goal is to design a supersonic engine – called a scramjet engine – that can fly high, fast, and on short notice.

View complete information on the Computational Hypersonics Research Laboratory.

Computational Fluids Laboratory

The Computational Fluids Laboratory focuses on research modeling complex fluid flows. Research is conducted developing numerical methods and algorithms for use in the modeling of both turbulent flows that are too complicated for direct numerical and large-eddy simulation methods and complex gas flows for which the molecular nature of the gas must be explicitly accounted for.

View complete information on the Computational Fluids Laboratory.

Solid Mechanics and Materials

Active Materials Laboratory

The Active Materials Laboratory is used for the study of active materials, primarily shape memory, magnetostrictive, and multiferroic materials. Extensive material testing is performed using multiple pieces of equipment, including in-situ Moiré microscopy, a magneto-mechanical testing machine, apparatus for polishing specimens at elevated temperatures, heat treatment facilities, and differential interference contrast optical microscopes.

View complete information on the Active Materials Laboratory.

Single Crystal Growth Facility

The Single Crystal Growth Facility is used to grow large single crystals using the Bridgman method. The crystal grower features computer control of temperature profile and translation rate and growth in an inert atmosphere or under vacuum. A cold crucible attachment permits melting of levitated materials without a crucible for contamination-free preparation of alloys. This lab is used to prepare buttons of metal alloys of essentially arbitrary composition as well as growing crystals of shape memory alloys, ferromagnetic shape-memory alloys, and other alloys. The current research focus of this lab is the discovery and development of low hysteresis alloys and the applications of these alloys in energy conversion devices.

View complete information on the Single Crystal Growth Laboratory.

Self Assembly and Energy Conversion Laboratory

The Self Assembly and Energy Conversion Laboratory houses two research projects: (1) self-assembly of objective structures and (2) ferromagnetic alloys which convert heat directly into electricity. Self-assembly is studied using neutrally-buoyant macroscopic magnetic particles, to which "thermal" energy is added by shaking the large water tank which contains them. Equilibrium and non-equilibrium experiments are performed, and the spacial and rotational configurations of the magnetic particles is recorded. Energy conversion is performed using an alloy which undergoes a solid-solid phase transition, where one phase is magnetic and the other phase is not. A temperature control stage with a high ramping rate and wide range is set up to test the cyclic reversibiilty of materials undergoing martensitic phase transformation. The apparatus features an optical microscope with differential interference contrast for the observation of microstucture. Alloys which have a very low hysteresis make for more efficient energy conversion, and theory guides the experimental search for such alloys.

View Photos of Lab

Aerospace Systems

The Guidance and Navigation Aerosystems Laboratory

The Guidance and Navigation Aerosystems Laboratory focuses on guidance, navigation, and control alogoritms with applications to unmanned aerial vehicles (UAVs), cubesats, and wind turbines. Existing facilities include a flexible structure instrumented for experimental studies in structural control. The University of Minnesota has teamed with UC-Berkeley and Caltech in the development, enhancement, and transition of integrated control and software technologies for this research.

View complete information on the Guidance and Navigation Aerosystems Laboratory.

The Avionics Laboratory

The Avionics Laboratory includes research, design, and development of algorithms and systems for navigation and guidance of guidance of vehicles.This laboratory contains instrumentation and cockpit displays, flight control and autopilot systems, engine control, diagnostic systems, on-board navigation systems, satellite global positioning systems, UAV, radar systems, communications and air traffic control systems.

The UAV Laboratory

The UAV (Uninhabited Aerial Vehicle) Laboratory has the goal to support research activities within the department including control, navigation and guidance algorithms, embedded fault detection methods, and system identification tools. Research components include avionics and sensors, airframes and RC components, simulation software, flight software, and a Java-based ground station.

View complete information on the Uninhabited Aerial Vehicle Laboratory.

The Aerosystems Simulation Facility

The Aerosystems Simulation Facility has the primary aim of developing formal methods for the system-wide study of human, human-assisted, and autonomous control of vehicles. Specific research includes real-time planning and decision making for dynamic systems; system integration of control, planning, and perceptual functions; and the principles of cognitive functions involved in spatial reasoning and adaptation. Work in the lab involves an interdisciplinary approach, combining theory of controls and dynamics with psychology and neurosciences.

View complete information on the Aerosystems Simulation Facility.


Instructional Facilities

Additional AEM facilities provide a space for students and faculty to collaborate on student projects, research, and instruction.

Wind Tunnel Lab

The Wind Tunnel Lab houses the two Departmental low speed wind tunnels. Both of these tunnels operate at maximum speed of about 30 meters/second and have large cross-section test sections. One is open return and the other is closed return. The two larger wind tunnels are used in the AEM 4602W - Aeromechanics Laboratory, AEM 4331- Aerospace Vehicle Design I, AEM 4333 and 4391 Aerospace Vehicle Design Build and AEM 4303 - Flight Dynamics and Control courses and for demonstrations and student research projects.

View complete information on the Wind Tunnel Lab.

AEM Lab Software

Undergraduate ATK Aerospace & Design Lab

The Undergraduate ATK Aerospace Design Lab (UDL) is a space designed to accommodate the needs of a group of design teams.  The design lab gives undergraduate students an opportunity to get their hands dirty and construct prototypes and proof-of-concept models.   It is equipped with a selection of manual and power tools, but more importantly students have access to safe tool-use training and supervised work times. The goal is to provide a surrounding where students can get comfortable with tool use, gain valuable hands-on experience building prototypes and models, and learn safe practices in an industrial environment. The primary materials worked on in the UDL are wood, plastic and foam.

View complete information on the Undergraduate ATK Aerospace Design Lab.

Aeromechanics Lab

The Aeromechanics Lab serves to give students an understanding of experimental methods and design in fluid and solid mechanics. Students learn wind tunnel and water channel experiments involving flow visualization, pressure, velocity, and force measurements. Students take experimental measurements of stresses, strains, and displacements in solids and structures, including stress concentrations, aerospace materials behavior, and structural dynamics.

View complete information on the Aeromechanics Lab.

Instrumentation Laboratory

The Instrumentation Laboratory is meant to give students a fundamental understanding of the measurement of a physical quantity using sensors, instrumentation amplifiers, and analog to digital converter which then interface with computers to record results. The lab exposes the details of hardware operation by using a low level approach and utilizing embedded controllers. Lab stations consist of an instrument rack containing a dual trace digital storage oscilloscope, digital voltmeter, function generator, power supply, single board computer, and bread board area. This is set up side-by-side to a computer for data acquisition and processing.

View complete information on the Instrumentation Laboratory.

Freshman Seminar Course Student Project Room

Freshman Seminar Course Student Project Room. Freshman students are given the opportunity to explore Aerospace Engineering and Mechanics as a major. The seminar classes give first-year students exposure to work in a small class environment.  AEM’s offers two freshman seminars which provide flight testing field trips:

  • Spaceflight with Ballooning for Fall Semester:  Students design and build mini-spacecraft and use inexpensive high-altitude helium balloons to launch them into “near-space” the upper reaches of the atmosphere --which has many of the same physical properties as outer space.
  • Wright Brothers Redux:  Build and Fly a Model Aircraft Spring Semester:    Students explore the aviation question “How do airplanes fly?” by designing, building and flying small radio controlled model airplanes

View complete information on the Freshman Seminar Course Student Project Room.

Richard and Shirley DeLeo Undergraduate Student Lounge

The Richard and Shirley DeLeo Undergraduate Student Lounge & AIAA Student Chapter serves as a resource and workspace. The room allows AEM undergraduates and other University students with interests in aeronautics and astronautics a place to gather and participate in community-building activities such as student engineering projects and event planning (for outreach events, laboratory tours, etc). Example project and event involvement includes the RC Airplane Project, the CanSat Project, and the AIAA Student Conference.

View complete information on the AIAA Student Chapter.


Supporting University Facilities

Faculty and students have access to additional University facilities for the purpose of research, student projects, and more.

Anderson Student Innovation Labs

Three Anderson Student Innovation Labs add more than 10,000 square feet of hands-on learning space for CSE students, all with state-of-the-art equipment and space for student group projects, design and capstone course projects, and student entrepreneurs. Two of the Anderson Student Innovation Labs are located in the Mechanical Engineering Building and one is in the Civil Engineering Building. Mechanical Engineering, Room 2134 is designed primarily for prototyping, and is home to more than 20 3D printers, 4 laser cutters, an electronic assembly area, and meeting space for collaborative groupwork. Mechanical Engineering, Room 176 upgrades a traditional machine shop with top-of-the line equipment, and the lab in the Civil Engineering Building includes additional 3D printers, a 3D scanner for digitizing objects, a materials testing load frame, welding facilities, and a comprehensive collection of woodworking tools. All CSE students can access these spaces during their open hours, though different categories of equipment require different levels of safety training. Some limited project storage is available on a first come, first serve basis. If you are interested in using these labs, your team can drop in during the open hours or contact the lab manager, Ben Guengerich, by email bguenger@umn.edu or phone (612-624-4681) Lab Hours (check schedule) Access Overview See also the Student Machine Shop (MechEng176).

Minnesota Supercomputing Institute

The Minnesota Supercomputing Institute (MSI) provides access to High Performance Computing (HPC), storage, and visualization resources. MSI offers supercomputers and labs with a wide selection of software, application and database solutions, web and database hosting, and consulting. Walk-in workstation laboratories accessible at the MSI include the Basic Sciences Computing Lab; Computational Genetics Lab; Biomedical Modeling, Simulation, and Design Lab; Scientific Development and Visualization Lab; and LCSE-MSI Visualization Laboratory.

CSE Shop

The University of Minnesota CSE Shop provides a wide array of machine shop services for research, including fabrication, machining, welding, on-site inspection, and consulting.

Mechanical Engineering Student Shop

The Mechanical Engineering Student Shop located in ME176 is also available for approved students from Aerospace Engineering to assist on projects.

Characterization Facility

The Characterization Facility is a multi-user, shared instrumentation facility for materials research. Analytical capabilities include microscopy via electron beams, force probes and visible light, including cryogenic methods; elemental and chemical imaging including depth profiling; elemental, chemical and mass spectrometry; atomic and molecular structure analysis via X-ray, ion, or electron scattering; nanomechanical and nanotribological probes; and other tools for surface and thin-film metrology.

Institute for Rock Magnetism

The Institute for Rock Magnetism was established as a national multi-user facility to provide state-of-the-art facilities and technical expertise to the greater geomagnetic community. Equipment includes vibrating sample magnetometers, an alternating gradient force magnetometer, a magnetic properties measurement system, susceptometers/susceptibility bridges, superconducting rock magnetometers, magnetizers/demagnetizers, Mossbauer spectrometers, and magnetic microscopy.

St. Anthony Falls Laboratory

The St. Anthony Falls Laboratory is an interdisciplinary fluids research and educational facility of the College of Science and Engineering at the University of Minnesota. Their research is focused at the intersection of fluid dynamics with major societal challenges in energy, environment and health. Researchers integrate experiments in the laboratory and field with advanced computational tools and theory to obtain innovative, science-based solutions to real-world fluid-flow problems.


Last Modified: 2017-07-11 at 10:33:24 -- this is in International Standard Date and Time Notation