Clemson hydraulics lab attracts international customers

02/22/05

CLEMSON -- Nail together some two-by-fours, add a maze of PVC, Plexiglas, red dye and 10,000 gallons of water and you've got a living room-sized model that costs as much as an SUV -- fully loaded.

Power plant builders from around the world rely on these models, built by David Werth, assistant professor of civil engineering at Clemson University, to model their water pumps.

Since the hydraulics lab opened in 2000, Werth has received more than 40 projects. worth nearly $1.5 million. Werth typically manages six to eight graduate students and four or five projects at a time. Model requests have come from Spain, Argentina, Mexico, Canada and the Caribbean.

"This is one of only five or six nongovernmental hydraulics labs with large-scale modeling capability of this type in the country and the only one in the Southeast that is active in sump pump modeling" Werth explained.

The models, which are typically built on a scale between 1:5 and 1:10, simulate water flow through pumps for power plants and drinking systems before they are built. The models allow Werth's team to observe water flow and tweak the plans to make the pump more reliable and efficient.

"Water pumps are the weak link in the chain. If they fail -- and they do regularly -- or if they operate poorly, then efficiency goes down and consumer costs go up," Werth said. When power plants shut down completely, companies can lose hundreds of thousands of dollars a day.

Source: Eurekalert & others

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