von Karman Institute for Fluid Dynamics (VKI)


About von Karman Institute for Fluid Dynamics (VKI)

Aero-thermodynamics of space vehicles re-entry, safety of nuclear reactors, noise and pollution reduction, performance of aircraft engine components and renewable energy systems define to a large extent the research performed at the von Karman Institute for Fluid Dynamics. These and many other topics gather young engineers and scientists from all over the world at the VKI to study, improve their skills and perform research. Located in Rhode-Saint-Genèse, near Brussels, this non-profit international educational and scientific organization is specialized in fluid dynamics (anything which flows) in the areas of Aeronautics and Aerospace, Environmental and Applied Fluid Dynamics, and Turbomachinery and Propulsion. The von Karman Institute prides itself in providing “advanced training in research through research“.

For more than 20 years, the Aeronautics and Aerospace Department is developing a research program on planetary re-entry phenomena related to the aerospace missions from the European Space Agency (ESA) and the Space Industry. It mainly concerns investigations on aerothermodynamics (ATD) and the design of the Thermal Protection System (TPS) for aerospace vehicles. Unique facilities as such as the LongShot (hypersonic wind tunnel, Mach 14) and the Plasmatron (plasma wind tunnel, 1.2 MW) are dedicated to the studies of laminar to turbulent transition in hypersonic regime and gas-surface Interaction in high enthalpy flows. Fundamental and numerical activities are intimately linked to this research program with the development of specific numerical simulation (CFD) platforms and physical modeling to compute non-equilibrium flow phenomena in shock layers.

Beside its traditional fields of expertise, the VKI has been involved since quite a few decades in a challenging field of research that deals with multiphase flows. Initially, this activity had been mainly driven by the demand from the industrial sector as there was a need of for R&D support to solve issues encountered in the fabrication processes. The resulting expertise has not only been incorporated in the program of education and research but also made available to projects from other sectors. Over more than a decade, most of these projects may be grouped in the thematic of solid and liquid propulsion. Just to cite few examples, the VKI has studied the flow inside the Ariane 5 solid boosters, the phenomena occurring during the priming of liquid propulsion lines, the monitoring of sloshing events in satellite propellant management devices or the characterization of cryogenic valves.

For several years, the Turbomachinery and Propulsion Department has been broadly specialized in activities related to aero-propulsion and energy conversion by means of rotating machinery. At the present time, the department teams up with the major European engine manufacturers, either in European Commission co-funded projects, or in bilateral very focused programs. The department has been recognized as one of the main research partners of Snecma, the French aero-engine manufacturer. Advanced aero-thermal research is carried out as well on the colder fan and compressor side, as on the hotter turbine extremity. On the energy side, the department recently completed the aero-mechanical design and optimization of the primary cooling pump of the Myrrha reactor for SCK-CEN in Mol, as well as the contribution to product development in several sectors of the energy conversion industry (steam turbines, turbo-chargers, …).

Over the past 10 years, the VKI has also dedicated important efforts to the field of aeroacoustics. This field deals with the aerodynamic noise generation and propagation, which has very important societal implications in sectors such as surface and air transportation, domestic appliances, renewable energies and industrial processes. Through national or EU-funded research projects, the VKI has built a strong expertise in modeling and measuring noise emitted by low-speed cooling fans for the automotive and locomotive industries. A specific facility has been designed and built for this purpose, allowing simultaneous aerodynamic and aeroacoustic performance certifications.

The expertise and know-how of the VKI is made available to the Belgian and international industry and public services through many collaborative projects, some of them involving very practical support in developing new products or studying actual problems e.g. in renewable energy. Many international peer-reviewed publications also contribute to a wide dissemination of the acquired knowledge at the VKI.

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Waterloose Steenweg 72
1640 Sint-Genesius-Rode
Tel. : +32 2 359 96 04
Fax : +32 2 359 96 00