With a goal towards significantly advancing the simulation of flow physics and biogeochemical processes involved in aquatic marine and riverine environments, this effort supported the acquisition of an Environmental Flows Water Tunnel (EFWT). The EFWT accommodates both oscillatory and steady flow for the simulation of horizontal wave velocities, tidal flows, or steady currents with both high- and low-velocity magnitudes. The EFWT operates as a rigid-lid (non-free surface) tunnel or as a flume/channel with a reduced-depth free surface while allowing for either rigid bottom boundaries or movable sediment beds with or without aquatic vegetation. It allows for the evaluation of engineered systems, high frequency acoustic characterization of the seafloor, and scale model marine hydrokinetic energy conversion devices or small arrays. The EFWT will serve as a valuable local, regional, and national resource for academic, governmental, and industrial partners.
The EFWT contains a 40 cm thick sediment bed. Pistons can be forced to directly simulated observed time series collected in nature. A laser grid system allows for millimeter scale resolution of the sediment bed geometry. Observations will be used to contribute to open-source community modeling efforts (e.g., benchmark data sets), develop a novel understanding of processes that impact ecosystem health, improve undersea technology, evaluate ocean renewable energy devices, and provide a vehicle for public outreach and education. The EFWT is being used for hands-on laboratory and demonstration purposes both within University of New Hampshire through courses in earth sciences, civil engineering, mechanical engineering and ocean engineering (with its new undergraduate major program) and also, through a multitude of continuous outreach efforts.