Imperial College London

Generous gift honouring alumnus Dr Hiralal Patel will fund bespoke wind tunnel

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Dr Hiralal Patel

The $250k donation was made in honour of Dr Hiralal Patel, shown here on his arrival at Imperial in 1938.

Imperial this week announced a donation of $250K from Sanjay and Leslie Patel that will create a new wind tunnel for high-speed air flow research.

The gift was made in honour of Mr Patel’s father, Dr Hiralal N Patel (Mechanical Engineering 1941, Aeronautics PhD 1945), a pioneer of the plastics industry in India.

The new wind tunnel will enable researchers to carry out fundamental and applied studies of air flow at speeds in the transonic (close to the speed of sound) and supersonic (greater than the speed of sound) ranges. The facility is due for completion in late 2016, and will form part of the Centre for High Speed Flow in the Department of Aeronautics.

The wind tunnel’s highly variable test settings will enable researchers to accurately replicate flight conditions within a facility small enough to be accommodated in a university setting. Such a facility is unique in the UK. The research carried out in the wind tunnel will have applications in fields including military and civilian aircraft design.

One area that the new tunnel will enable researchers to study is “flutter” – something that Dr Patel explored in his PhD thesis over 70 years ago. Flutter refers to the unstable oscillation that occurs on surfaces such as the wing of an aircraft during flight. Accurate modelling of flutter remains a challenge for aeronautical engineers today and is a particular problem in transonic and supersonic flight.

Professor Jonathan Morrison of the Department of Aeronautics said: “Transonic flutter is something that hasn’t really been fully addressed scientifically and the new tunnel will enable us to explore this important and as yet unanswered question.”

This gift ... will have significant and enduring impact.

– Professor Ferri Aliabadi

Head of the Department of Aeronautics

Professor Ferri Aliabadi, Head of the Department of Aeronautics said: “This gift, made in honour of Dr Patel’s longstanding connection to the College, will have significant and enduring impact. We are hugely grateful to the Patel family for their support.”

The gift was announced at the conclusion of President Gast's visit to India in April 2016, where she met with Dr Patel and presented him with a copy of his original PhD thesis from 1945.

Reporter

Mia Roberts

Mia Roberts
Advancement

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