Oshawa wind tunnel creates hurricane-like conditions
University of Ontario Institute of Technology facility can simulate climates from the Arctic to the desert
A Toronto-area university facility can create Category 5 hurricane force winds in minutes.
Think of it as a make-your-own climate simulator.
The ACE Climatic Wind Tunnel at the University of Ontario Institute of Technology (UOIT) in Oshawa is a playground for scientists, engineers, architects and filmmakers.
It is the only climatic wind tunnel in Canada and it's gaining reputation worldwide.
"We have the most sophisticated climatic wind tunnel in the world," said John Komar, director of engineering and operations at UOIT. "We can actually direct weather."
With an array of lights hanging above and a larger than life turbine, ACE can create temperatures from –40 to 60 C and wind speeds high enough to qualify as a Category 5 hurricane.
"We've pushed this tunnel up to 300 km/h," Komar told CBC Toronto. "We don't do little models here. We do full-scale."
From cars to hovercrafts
ACE, which stands for Automotive Centre of Excellence, was made for testing vehicles.
Automobile companies frequently use the space to put their vehicles through rigorous conditions, checking everything from aerodynamics to how paint holds up in blizzards or desert-like weather.
What separates ACE from other wind tunnels in the world, according to Komar, is an 11-metre turntable that allows vehicles to be turned into the wind stream.
The five-storey building housing ACE is large enough for an assortment of vehicles — including hovercrafts.
Komar says a company wanted to test hovercrafts for use on Georgian Bay at ACE.
"It's not icing over anymore so snowmobiles are not the mode. They're actually using hovercrafts to get to the islands. We help companies develop that kind of strategy of being in blizzards and not conking out."
Since it's creation, ACE has become a jack-of-all-trades for product development.
Remember all those reports of ice falling from buildings during the winter?
Architects use ACE to design buildings that aren't susceptible to creating those dangerous conditions.
"We've had the full-scale sides of buildings where we do ice-shedding," Komar said.
"Say in Toronto or New York City, architects are looking at ice mitigation strategies of how to prevent those sheets from falling. We can give them a full blizzard and ice, bring the sunshine, create the ice and go down cool. We can give them four days in eight hours."
Emergency services training
First responders have also completed training exercises under intense weather conditions created by ACE.
Komar says Toronto firefighters are among the emergency personnel who've trained in the facility in full gear, taking off hoses and getting pumps going in cold.
From amateurs with Olympic dreams to daredevil professionals, ACE also helps athletes excel.
In the coming weeks, Canadian Olympic staff will head to UOIT to test out slick, new uniforms for speed skaters and skiers.
Suicide Squad took over Toronto when it was filmed in the summer of 2015.
But while they were in the GTA, film crews also headed to Oshawa to shoot a prison escape scene at ACE.
Did you know: Will Smith and Scott Eastwood filmed scenes for Suicide Squad in the <a href="https://twitter.com/UOIT">@UOIT</a> ACE Climatic Wind Tunnel. <a href="https://twitter.com/hashtag/OUF2016?src=hash">#OUF2016</a>—@UOIT