The Oxford Thermofluids Institute (known throughout the world as Osney Lab) began life in the 1960s, researching hypersonic flow under the leadership of Professor Douglas Holder and, later, Professor Don Schultz. Our early work focused on the conditions faced by spacecraft and satellites re-entering Earth’s atmosphere. To study the special conditions that arise during re-entry, we developed short duration shock tubes and piston tunnels to re-create re-entry conditions.

Rolls-Royce/Snecma Olympus 593

Rolls-Royce/Snecma Olympus 593

This early work in hypersonic flow led to the development of world-leading instrumentation and transient measurement capability encapsulated in the AGARDOgraph “Heat Transfer Measurements in Short Duration Hypersonic Facilities,” (1973) by Don Schultz and Terry Jones.  Building on this foundation in shock tunnels, we partnered with Rolls Royce and applied our growing expertise to heat transfer and aerodynamic problems encountered in gas turbines. In 1989, a Rolls Royce supported University Technology Centre (UTC) in Heat Transfer and Aerodynamics was established.

Our group successfully worked with the support of Rolls Royce to focus on the further extension of measurement techniques and testing methods developing a range of experimental facilities. Key advances that are now routinely used include Thin Film Heat Transfer Gauges, and Liquid Crystal thermography for detailed heat transfer measurements together with surface cooling systems.

Interestingly, this research has now turned full circle with our methods now being applied to hypersonic propulsion. In the Hyshot programme (supported by QinetiQ [formerly DERA], UK; NASA, USA; and the Universities of Queensland, Gottingen, and Oxford) a Terrior-Orion, two stage, rocket was launched to ~350 km altitude to conduct Scramjet tests as it re-entered the earth’s atmosphere between 30 and 20 km altitude.

In 2010 we moved into a new laboratory in the Southwell Building.  Today, the Oxford Thermofluids Institute benefits from significant industrial sponsorship, with current grant exceeding thirty million pounds. Our research output forms a key part of Rolls-Royce’s research strategy. Other significant sponsors include EPSRC, Siemens, DSTL and Mitsubishi Heavy Industries.