The massive Indoor Hurricane Simulator at the University of Miami’s Marine Science Center is now up and running, kicking up a storm in tropical weather research. This giant aquarium recreates 150-mph wind conditions and is built on Penetron concrete technology to ensure a durable and waterproof structure.
The University of Miami recently inaugurated a $45 million Marine Technology & Life Sciences Seawater Complex, which houses SUSTAIN (SUrge-STructure-Atmosphere Interaction), a hurricane simulation tool. The size of a small house, SUSTAIN has the unique ability to create category 5 hurricane simulations inside the lab, across a field of waves made of real sea water pumped into the building at 1,000 gallons per minute. It is comprised of three major components:
- A 1,400-horsepower fan originally used to ventilate mine shafts is used here to create 150-mph hurricane winds.
- A wave generator pushes salt water with 12 different paddles to make waves of various sizes, angles, and frequency, creating anything from a calm swell to sloppy chaotic seas.
- The tank is 20 feet (6 meters) wide and 66 feet (20 meters) long, and is made of 3-inch thick clear acrylic so the conditions inside can be observed from all sides.
With this new research tool, scientists will be able to better understand the process by which hurricanes are fueled by warm water. Bob Atlas, who is in charge of NOAA’s Hurricane Forecasting Improvement Project, explains, "NOAA has to be able to predict the storm. But ultimately, what the public needs to know is if their streets and homes will be flooded, and if their homes will survive when the hurricane hits. SUSTAIN will make a difference."
Christopher Chen, Director of The Penetron Group, adds, “Not only are they using a lot of seawater in this tank, but they’re generating unimaginable amounts of chaos. That’s why the University of Miami wanted an absolutely reliable solution for the main components.”
The Penetron crystalline waterproofing material was applied to the foundations of the elevated hurricane testing tank to prevent any water from entering the concrete matrix, even under high hydrostatic pressure.
“There’s obviously a big waterproofing aspect to this project for Penetron,” adds Christopher Chen. “But when the simulator’s fury is aimed at models of buildings and sea walls and clobbering mini skyscrapers, it’s also good to know the enhanced durability of the structure will stand up to this storm for a long time.”
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