Our laboratory is one of the best-equipped facilities of its kind covering a floor area of some 3000 square meters

The Hydrodynamics Laboratory is located in the basement of the Civil Engineering Building on the South Kensington Campus of Imperial College and has a tradition of excellence in wide-ranging areas of fluid mechanics with civil and environmental engineering applications.

Available laboratory facilities

Wave facilities

The Hydrodynamics Section laboratory is equipped with the facilities to measure waves and their impact. Experiments in 2D environment can be undertaken in a number of wave flumes, while 3D experiments can take place in the directional wave basin. Each wave generation facility is fitted with a modern active-absorption control system, enabling the realistic representation of ocean wave spectra.

Wave basin

The ocean basin at Imperial College London is the largest research only facility in the UK and measures 20m by 12m. This facility has a maximum operational water depth of 1.5m yet can accurately model both deep and shallow water marine environments through use of an adjustable bed system. The wave-generation process is controlled through a bank of 56 numerically controlled flap-type wave paddles. These paddles allow state-of-the-art experimental conditions to be generated, including directional sea states with frequency dependent spectra. For specialist purposes, the centre of the basin has a 3.5m deep core measuring 1.2m by 1.2m– ideal for modelling catenary moorings and other deep water operations.

Towing tank/ Wide wave flume (Long flume)

This 1.25m deep, 2.8m wide and 62m long facility has recently been refurbished with four new flap-type wave paddles. Like the other flumes, the paddles are entirely computer controlled, allowing the generation of large, high quality, unidirectional regular and random waves. The comparatively large size of the flume makes it ideal to undertake experiments on wave energy devices and other floating structures – such as offshore wind turbines – at scales of approximately 1:60. Furthermore, a rail-mounted carriage is installed above the flume and can be used to tow objects – this is particularly valuable when examining effects such as the wake developed behind a moving body.

Coastal flume

The Coastal Flume is a 23m long, 0.6m wide facility, designed to reproduce waves in intermediate and shallow water depths. The flume is equipped with a piston-type wave paddle and can be operated in a wide range of water depths (0.4-0.7m) and incident conditions (regular, random and custom). The wavemaker can accurately represent waves generated in the intermediate and shallow water depth regime and uses force-feedback, active absorption technology to minimise reflections. The waves can propagate over the original flat bed configuration or over custom built bed slopes of variable angles. At the downstream end, the waves are effectively absorbed by an adjustable, perforated beach which is enhanced by a 3D geotextile. Present research focuses on the accurate generation of random waves in the nearshore environment, the evolution of waves in finite water depths (nonlinear interactions and wave breaking), and the design of coastal structures. Measurements that are typically performed in this flume include: water surface elevation at multiple locations along the flume, wave run-up and overtopping, forces and pressures on coastal structures, wave kinematics and wave breaking.

Wind-wave-current flume (Double-ended flume)

The wind-wave-current flume is a unique facility with wave boards located at opposing ends of the 27m long tank, an overlying wind tunnel and a re-circulating current. The wave boards are fully controlled numerically and operate using state-of-the-art force feedback. As such, these paddles can absorb and generate wave energy, making it a novel facility for the study of wave power take-off. This facility has been instrumental in much of the group’s work relating to extreme ocean waves, wave-current interactions and wind-wave interactions. 

Current flume (4ft flume)

In contrast to many current flumes, this facility in the Hydrodynamics Laboratory is continuously fed with a constant head to reduce the turbulent kinetic energy of the flow. This gives the researcher the flexibility to create the flow conditions they require, a recent example being the introduction of a bed structure to create realistic oceanic turbulent kinetic energy for a tidal turbine investigation. The flume has a variable width, adjustable in 0.3m intervals up to a maximum 1.2m and a working length of 2.4m. The combination of the width, volume and a maximum flow rate of 0.3m³/s allow for full flow-depth control.

Wave evolution flume (Wall mounted flume)

The primary purpose of the Wave Evolution Flume is to examine the properties of waves as they propagate from deep water into shallow water. To achieve this, the 60m long, 0.3m wide flume is currently equipped with 1:100 beach to provide a water depth of 0.5m to 0m. Pressure transducers are installed in the moveable bed to provide further insight. Glass walls to allow visual access for techniques such as particle image velocimetry. Similar to the other flumes the laboratory, the waves are generated using a force-controlled flap-type wave maker. The research undertaken in this flume is particularly useful for predicting near-shore wave conditions for wave energy conversion and other infrastructure.

Wide flow tank for transverse and oscillatory flow research [currently under construction]

The new tank has been designed to include the ability to (a) create a large volume still-water tank; (b) to create steady-flows across the entire tank width and (c) to create superimposed oscillatory flows using a motion apparatus. Internal tank dimensions will be 26.9m long, 6.2m wide, and 1.3m high, with a max water depth of 1.2m. 

Wave flumes and wave basin

Facility typeLengthWidthDepth
 Double-ended wave and current flume  27m  0.3m  0.7m
 Large wave flume  55m  2.6m  1.2m
 Coastal flume  23m  0.6m  0.4-0.7m
 Wave evolution flume  60m  0.3m  Sloping 1:100 from 0.5 to 0
 Multidirectional wave basin 12m  20m  0.8m - 1.5m

Teaching facilities

The section is involved in a number of teaching activities. To help understanding of complicated problems, the section runs demonstration labs to give students a visual understanding of the problems they are trying to solve.

Teaching demonstration equipment

This has a wide range of flumes, Ahlborn tanks, flow visualization tanks, and pipe flow experiments that are used to demonstrate basic principles in Fluid Mechanics to the undergraduate engineers.