Helicopters Hiding in the Hollows of Hammond
At one point or another while walking down College Ave, you’ve probably walked past the eyesore of a structure known as the Hammond Building. Stretching two blocks from Allen St. to Burrowes St., this monolithic monstrosity does more than suppress attacks on campus from the neighboring Huns. Buried deep within the lowest levels of Hammond lies the Adverse Environmental Rotor Test Stand: Penn State Vertical Lift Research Center of Excellence. Now that you’ve caught your breath after trying to spit out that title, read on to learn what actually goes on in this unique research facility.
In order to gain insight into the work that is done there, I met and spoke with Research Associate and Facility Developer Jose Palacios (more on him later). After meeting Jose in the east end of the Hammond basement, he showed me around the research lab/classroom, and the actual AERTS test facility. The facility itself is probably one of the coolest things you’ll find on campus (if you’re into that sort of thing).
The facility is designed to test methods of shedding ice from helicopter rotors when flying in adverse conditions. To test these methods, a helicopter rotor up to 9 ft in diameter is spun inside a diamond plated steel clad room at speeds up to 1000 RPM. The room is then cooled to temperatures of up to -25 C, at which point water is sprayed at the spinning rotors through NASA issued nozzles. The water freezes to the rotors forming layers of ice, at which point the ice shedding capabilities of the rotors are tested.
The entire facility was designed and built by Jose Palacios, a 2008 grad from Penn State. After studying ultrasonic deicing as part of his Ph. D. research, he decided that Penn State needed a facility in which to conduct this sort of testing. Upon graduation, Palacios worked on this facility until its completion in 2009. Since then, the center has done research for both private and federal organizations such as Boeing, the Army, and Bell Helicopter.
Check out the facility’s website for some cool videos of the deicing tests, as well as contact info for Jose and his research team. If you’re interested, feel free to drop them a line and go visit their facility for a full explanation of the lab and the work that goes on there. It’s definitely worth the time.