National Aeronautics and Space Administration

Glenn Research Center

Icing Research Tunnel

The Icing Research Tunnel was brought online in 1944 to study icing on fighter planes. Icing occurs under certain flight conditions and can lead to disrupted air flow, loss of lift, and engine problems. Currently there are 2 main types if ice accretion found on the leading edge of wing; rime (which is formed by smaller water droplets) and horned ice. Recent engine testing has found that a new type of ice crystal can be formed inside the engine and this has spawned the first set of preemptive icing research. Normally research is spawned by a series of aircraft accidents but now there are steps being taken to prevent an accident due to these engine ice crystals.

The test center sits in a low pressure atmosphere and in order to reach it, the tour group first had to pass through an air lock. The control room was filled with technicians conducting a test on a wing strut and they could easily see the misty spray swirling and forming ice. The test was put on hold and the interns were able to step inside the test section- though at a balmy -11° C! The freezing tour group was able to look upstream at the spray bars and heat exchanger. However because of the testing, the interns were unable to walk through the inner workings to see the 25-foot diameter wind tunnel fan.