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Notre Dame invests in turbomachinery facility

| Tuesday, September 2, 2014

In June, the University announced a project to build the nation’s premier turbine engine component research and testing facility, which will give researchers and students the opportunity to study and improve upon the technology used in aircraft and power production, according to a Notre Dame press release.

The $36 million project, in which other partners include General Electric (GE), the city of Sound Bend, the state of Indiana, Great Lakes Capital and Indiana Michigan Power, will be completed by March 2015 and fully operational by July 2016, the press release said. Notre Dame will contribute $7.5 million to the project, which will occupy 25,000 square feet of South Bend’s Ignition Park and directly generate 60 new jobs.

Notre Dame Vice President for Research Robert Bernhard said the project will also allow unparalleled academic opportunities for students.

“The facility is able to support experiments at the extreme conditions [such as temperature, pressure and velocity] of real gas turbine engines,” Bernhard said. “Students will have better access to observe these conditions than any other facility in the world with the opportunity to learn about the physics of gas flow in gas turbine engines.

“In addition, the experimental measurements made in this facility are unique. Undergraduate and graduate students will learn about very unique measurement methods that are state-of-the-art.”

The research students and Notre Dame faculty perform could also directly translate into new techniques or products for turbine producers, Bernhard said.

“The research our faculty and students will conduct at the facility could be implemented by gas turbine engine manufacturers within several years,” he said. “The various studies might result in higher engine efficiency, better performance, lower emissions or lower costs or some combination of these factors.”

University President Fr. John Jenkins said the project will stimulate the local economy as well as produce unique educational opportunities.

“This venture will be a cutting-edge research and testing facility for the turbine engine industry as well as a tremendous economic driver for our region,” Jenkins said in a statement. “Notre Dame is grateful to our partners for their support of this project and excited about all that it will mean to our University, the city and state, the industry as a whole and our nation.”

The facility is expected to create more than $15 million in expenditures annually, and Indiana governor Mike Pence said it highlights Indiana’s growing presence in the aerospace industry.

“The aerospace industry is reaching new heights in Indiana,” Pence said, according to the press release. “Universities like Notre Dame and others across the state are providing avenues for discovery, proving that the sky is the limit in Indiana when it comes to bringing a big vision to life. The next great technological innovation could come from the mind of a Hoosier, highlighting for the world the full range of possibilities when investing in a state that works.”

Rick Stanley, vice president and chief technologist for GE’s Power and Water business and a 1980 Notre Dame alumnus, said the facility will continue Notre Dame’s fruitful relationship with GE.

“The center will allow GE’s industrial businesses to simulate full-scale engine operating environments,” Stanley said in a statement. “The important rig testing we will do at the center builds upon GE’s already strong and long-standing technical relationship with the University. For years, GE has turned to Notre Dame for top technical talent.”

South Bend Deputy Mayor Mark Neal said the project illustrates the city’s commitment to business innovation and economic development.

“Attracting such major investment speaks to South Bend’s economic future and its capacity to attract high-tech businesses,” Neal said in the press release. “This project continues our city’s history of innovation and is more evidence of the benefits that South Bend’s economic and geographic advantages offer.”

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About Jack Rooney

Jack is a 2016 graduate of Notre Dame, and The Observer's former managing editor. He is currently spending a year living and working for the University in Ireland, and writing columns to keep him busy. For more random thoughts and plenty of news links, follow Jack on Twitter @RooneyReports.

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