NSRI wins £1.25m funding for leading-edge Soil Vehicle Lab
By Adrian Bell
The National Soil Resources Centre (NSRI), part of Cranfield University, has won over £1.25 million of funding to build a new off-road Vehicle Dynamics Laboratory on its Silsoe site and announces consultation phase with sport surface industry.
The facility, which will be completed by early 2005, will be the only centre of its type in the UK to study the relationship between machines and the soil environment in controlled conditions. This will provide important research information to the sport surface industry and a number of other sectors, including agriculture, utilities, aviation, automotive and defence.
With an international reputation for its expertise, the new laboratory will expand upon the NSRI's existing soil implement dynamics facilities. Funding comes from the Higher Education Funding Council of England, boosted by ten per cent from industry.
"We're delighted that this important new development has the go-ahead," says NSRI's head of engineering, Professor Dick Godwin.
"This facility will help the sports surface industry to optimise the performance of its vehicles and equipment. For example, it will help develop tyres, traction systems and machinery that can minimise soil compaction and improve soil management techniques.
"Examples in other sectors include new studies of sub-sea cable-laying to minimise both the energy requirement and sea-bed disturbance."
Innovative research equipment planned for the lab includes two whole-vehicle controlled moisture soil bins, the first in the UK. One wide and shallow bin (5m x 0.75m) will be for the evaluation of whole vehicles and tillage trains, while a deep narrow bin (2.5m x 2.5m) will test a large range of machine components from sea ploughs to aircraft tyres. Each 45 metres long, the water level in these two vast bins can be controlled to simulate a range of conditions from the saturated sea-bed encountered in sub-sea cable laying, through to hard compact dirt roads and airstrips. A sophisticated single-wheel test apparatus, designed to accurately control the torque or slip of a single test wheel in any environment, will measure tyre performance and the effectiveness of different traction control techniques, while a variable plane four-wheel traction plate can simulate undulating ground surfaces.
With the laboratory design in its final stage, NSRI has just initiated an industry consultation phase. Professor Godwin is inviting comment and discussion from companies in the sector. "We want to know how the site could best meet their requirements, both now and in the future," he says.
"Our long-term research aim is to create a virtual environment for the evaluation of any machine or vehicle configuration in a controlled manner. This will improve the accuracy, repeatability and cost-effectiveness of tyre and vehicle dynamics research for off-road vehicles and equipment."
Companies who wish to take part in consultation should contact Professor Dick Godwin or Dr James Brighton at NSRI Engineering Group on 01525 863053. For more details of their work please see http://www.silsoe.cranfield.ac.uk/caee/the_centre.htm
Part of Cranfield University, the NSRI Engineering Group has a long history associated with soil machine and vehicle systems. It is the only UK research establishment devoted to understanding soil dynamics and the sustainable management of soil, in this country and has a strong international reputation.