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Department of Mechanical, Aerospace and Civil Engineering

Thermal hydraulics experimental facilities

Our research group has assembled a collection of experimental facilities with unique capabilities in thermal hydraulics and developed in-depth expertise in a variety of flow and thermal diagnostics techniques.

Manchester has a long and distinguished tradition in experimental heat and fluid flow stretching back many decades.

The main expertise of the group is in providing detailed local flow and thermal data in application, which involves complex geometries and other challenges such as system rotation, flow instabilities driven by buoyancy and the presence of extreme pressures and temperatures. 

As well as being the proud possessors of the world’s most famous experimental apparatus in fluid mechanics, the Osborne Reynolds tank, we also host the following advanced experimental facilities:

Generic thermal hydraulics loop (C-Net rig)

This is a versatile, large scale, multi-purpose facility (length 6m; diameter 1m).  It can operate with either air or water, or both. 

The rig can be used in the vertical orientation, or it can be tilted from vertical to horizontal. Its size makes it ideal for the investigation of natural and mixed convection. A PhD study on flow induced vibrations in fuel rods of pressurised water (PWR) nuclear reactors, partially funded by EDF, has been completed.

High pressure and temperature test facility

This has been developed over in the last 10 years, with funds from EDF-Energy to allow heat transfer tests under AGR (Advanced Gas-Cooled Reactors) operating pressure and temperatures.

  • Nominal size of the working section: 0.6m diameter and 0.8m length
  • Operating pressure: up to 40 bar
  • Temperature: up to 500oC
  • Maximum air flow rate: 0.05kg/s
  • Heat input: up to 20kW can be supplied

This facility was originally used to investigate the effective thermal conductivity of the insulation layer of the gas-cooled reactor hot box dome. It has subsequently been used, in a second project funded by EDF-energy, to investigate the conductance of an annular insulation sleeve, introduced to protect the spines of pod boilers.

Internal air flows facility

Facility for the investigation of internal forced convection. Long working section ensures fully developed conditions and flow Reynolds numbers as high as 400,000.

Used for recent studies of flows through fuel cooling passages of nuclear reactors. 

Natural convection cavity

Rectangular cavity with two differentially heated opposite sides, each 2.4m tall and 0.53m wide. Temperature of opposite sides is controlled to within 0.1 oC. The working fluid is air. 

Can produce local flow measurements through LDA, gas temperature measurements through fine-wire thermocouples and surface temperature measurements. May be tilted from vertical to horizontal and has the potential to be converted into a natural circulation loop.

Rotating flow water rig

Originally developed in the 1960s for flow visualisation experiments, this rotating turntable was upgraded in the 1990s through the introduction of advanced flow and thermal diagnostic techniques and power transmission capability.

These enabled the group to fully exploit the rig’s unique ability to produce high dimensionless flow and rotation numbers, for large-scale models of cooling passages. 

  • diameter: 0.6m
  • rotational speed:  up to 200 rpm,
  • flow rate: up to 5 kg/s. 


The group has developed expertise in a variety of flow and thermal diagnostics techniques, which involve advanced instrumentation and also increasingly sophisticated post-processing software. These include:

  • Laser Doppler anemometry (LDA)
  • Phase-Doppler anemometry (PDA)
  • Particle image velocimetry (PIV)
  • Hot-wire anemometry (HWA)
  • Pressure transducers
  • Thermocouples
  • Thermo-chromic liquid crystals
  • Flow visualisation and optical tracking, techniques.
  • Iso-thermal heat flux sensors