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Cross-country Travel in Minutes? Notre Dame's Unique Wind Tunnel May Be Key

Traveling cross-country in a matter of minutes. It sounds like something out of a sci-fi film, but researchers at Notre Dame say it is reality.

This is the goal of a research project. Research that is possible because of wind tunnels, and Notre Dame is soon going to be home to the biggest hypersonic wind tunnel in the country.

Researchers are hoping that this tunnel will soon change travel as we know it.

Driving on St. Joseph Road near Notre Dame, you may not even notice it, but a field there is home to the start of a unique project.

“We're making things that are impossible right now, possible," said Thomas Juliano, a professor with Notre Dame’s aerospace and mechanical engineering department.

It's the beginning of a wind tunnel – that wind moving at six times the speed of sound.

The goal? To figure out how to travel from D.C. to L.A. in less than 15 minutes.

Juliano is the brains behind it.

"This wind tunnel is going to be a unique facility – not just at any university, not just anywhere in the United States, but anywhere in the world," he told WSBT 22.

What makes it different from other research facilities is the size.

Grad student Alec Houpt says it's exciting to be at the forefront of a breakthrough.

"We've accomplished so much with all of our planes and jet engines that a lot of people are looking at how to make everything more efficient, fly further and fly faster. We are working on the faster,” Houpt said.

The tunnel should be completed in a year and a half. Juliano says he and his students will figure out what materials can withstand that type of speed, so that eventually a type of vehicle can be made out of it.

And the best part? Juliano says this type of travel is not too far in the future.

“I think the technical feasibility, maybe 30 or 40 years," he said.

"A lot of the research that we do could have a huge impact on whether or not this actually becomes a reality," said Houpt.

This project has gotten about $1.3 million in funding from the Air Force, and over half a million from Notre Dame

Juliano says with this type of travel, people could potentially fly from Chicago to Tokyo in 2 and a half hours.

Learn more about the research here


— Jessi Schultz, WSBT 22

Published originally:
WSBT-TV (Feb. 23, 2017)