Super Radiator Coils Builds Massive New Coils for NASA Wind Tunnel

MINNEAPOLIS - A huge, 25-ft. high wall of heat exchanger coils has been manufactured by Super Radiator Coils in Chaska and will soon be on its way to replace the coils in the Icing Research Tunnel (IRT) at NASA's Glenn Research Center in Cleveland, OH. When installed and commissioned late this summer or early fall, the new coils will enable the IRT to lower the air temperature faster and more efficiently to a minus 40° F, which will be 15 degrees colder than its current capacity. The IRT has been in continuous operation since 1944 and is one the world's largest and busiest research facilities that simulate atmospheric icing conditions. Its closed-loop tunnel uses a 5,200 HP motor and 14-foot prop-fan to re-circulate air at speeds of 50-300 knots/hour (31-186 miles/hour). Downstream from the bank of coils are misters that inject water into the air stream, which freezes upon contact with the test specimen. Aeronautic design engineers, aircraft manufacturers, and airline companies from around the world use the facility to test wing design and other aircraft components under icing weather conditions. "The new coils will incorporate the most advanced heat exchanger technologies available and has taken about four months to build," said Jon Holt, Chairman of Super Radiator Coils. "One of the main reasons we were chosen for this important project was because of our experience in custom designing and manufacturing coils for 14 other wind tunnels, including NASA's Ames Research Center in Mountain View, California."Designing the high efficiency, cascade-style heat exchangers to meet NASA's specifications was a collaborative effort between Super Radiator and Jacobs Technology Inc., which specializes in wind tunnel design. Jacobs is headquartered in Tullahoma, TN. The innovative design tilts the heat exchanger coils forward in a slant configuration, which effectively doubles the exposed face area of the coils. The result is a dramatic increase in the heat transfer capabilities of the coils, while reducing the air velocity and preventing ice shedding from the coils. The $1.2 million project includes six large coils or modules of heat exchanger coils that will be stacked on top of each other in the IRT to form a wall that air must pass through before entering the test chamber in the wind tunnel. Each module is 4.4 feet high, nearly 9 feet wide and 50 feet long. More than 30 miles of 5/8-inch diameter copper tubing was used to form the coils, which have enough heat dissipating aluminum fins around them to cover a football field. All told, the six banks of coils will weigh 110 tons, when a refrigerant is put inside the tubes. Besides the massive wall of heat exchanger coils, the IRT's remodeling project involves replacing all of the refrigeration equipment, including compressors, piping, instrumentation and controls. The new system will use advanced, low-temperature refrigerants. All of these upgrades will increase efficiency and provide better thermal controls, according to Super Radiator."A project like this was not without its many challenges, beginning with its sheer size and scope," Holt said. "Although we have designed and manufactured coils for a number of wind tunnels, this is by far the largest." "The overall height, weight and length of the coils, along with the core weight of the multi-angled framework that will hold the coils in each module, were all manufactured to a non-standard design," he continued. "Another challenge that is yet to come will be carefully placing all six coil modules on top of each other to perform as one gigantic heat exchanger coil, taking into account variances in thermal expansion and contraction." The company has been working on plans for this project for more than a year. The six modules were assembled and tested by Super Radiator at its facilities in Chaska. They will soon be transported to the IRT, then lowered through the roof into the wind tunnel. After final assembly, installation and additional testing, the IRT is expected to become operational by late fall. The new coils will be the third generation of heat exchanger coils to be used in the IRT. The current coils, which were installed about 10 years ago, were designed and built by another manufacturer, as were the facility's original coils. Super Radiator's experience in designing and manufacturing heat exchanger coils for wind tunnels also includes Honda of America in Ohio and Japan; Boeing and Hyundai Motor Company, both in Korea; the Korean Air Academy; Daimler AG, BMW AG, and BEHR GmbH, all in Germany; McLaren Automotive and Williams Grand Prix, both in the United Kingdom. In addition, the company has produced coils for wind tunnels for Modine Manufacturing in Racine, WI, and Wichita State University in Wichita, KS. Besides the Icing Research Tunnel, the 300-acre Glenn Research Center has 150 buildings and 31 research facilities. The Center was renamed in 1999 in tribute to former astronaut and U.S. Senator from Ohio, John H. Glenn. More information is available at According to the IRT website (, "A variety of tests are performed in the building, including fundamental studies of icing physics, icing prediction validation, and ice protection system development and certification." Applications include developing and certifying next-generation ice protection systems for both military and commercial aircraft. Founded in 1927, Super Radiator ( is a $70-million company that employs 340 people at its offices and plants in Minneapolis, Richmond, VA, and its two plants in Phoenix, AZ. The company produces condenser, evaporator, steam and other coils for more than 50 industries, including HVAC equipment manufacturers; chemical producers; petroleum operations; pharmaceuticals; pulp and paper companies; food processing, storage and display equipment; and power generation equipment. Contact: Dick Parrish, MindShare Communications at or Ph. 952-449-9997

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