by Allan J. Acosta (BS 45 ME, MS 49 ME, PhD 52 ME)

Allan Acosta picks up the history of the Pump Lab shortly after World War II:

During World War II, the Pump-Lab Dynamometer was used to drive a closed water tunnel circuit in which tests were conducted. There was no control of the air content, but pressure level control was established with the pump circuitry. During this period, the dynamometer was also used to test aerodynamic compressors for the Northrop Company. These compressor tests were supervised by Professor Duncan Rannie, whom I believe designed the compressor. It was known that something was going on there because as we students went by the closed Hydrodynamics Laboratory door a loud whining noise could be heard on occasion.

Pump tests for the Grand Coulee Project resumed about 1946. In September 1946, John Beveridge (MS 49) and I were hired to work on this project, which was completed in late 1948 when the US Bureau of Reclamation approved the acceptance tests, the USBR signatory being Don Barnes. A full description of this development was given in 1950 by Carl Blom, the Chief Engineer for Byron Jackson, who had replaced Aladar Hollander in that position.

Some active work in the Pump Lab continued after the conclusion of the Grand Coulee project, in particulat some work on the Mk46 Torpedo. This torpedo was developed by the Naval Ordinance Test Station in Pasadena and deployed water jet propulsion. A pump located in the nose of the torpedo provided the water for six jets placed at intervals around the body a short distance downstream. The performance tests for this propulsion system were completed by John Beveridge in 1948. However, I do not believe this torpedo was ever put into service.

Throughout these years the accuracy of the measurements made in both the Pump Lab and in the Hydrodynamics Lab improved and Professor Knapp was justly proud of the new level of accuracy achieved, namely plus or minus one quarter of a percentage point for all of the primary measurements of flow, pressure, power, time and frequency. At first, many of these measurements were made mechanically though necessarily with some electrical and electronic components. The stability of the operating test system and all the time and frequency measurements were engineered at the highest level by Haskell Shapiro (BS 42, MS 47, PhD 57). In addition, high-speed photography of the water tunnel cavitating flows became a necessity and the movies created made Robert Knapp justly famous. In work that coincided with the well-known work of Harold Edgerton at MIT, Haskell Shapiro developed a new system of multiple flash lamp switching that made this high-speed photography possible. He also provided essential instrumentation for spark photography, control and data acquisition to other research groups at the Institute.

Other turbomachinery research activities were evolving about this time. A small laboratory for rotating machining was built on the mezzanine level by myself, Dino Morelli and William Osborne on leave from Goulds Pump. This investigated the behavior of a pump in all four operational quadrants. The facility included pressure control as well as flow visualization in the rotating impellers. And on the basement floor level an Axial Flow, Three Stage Pump facility was developed. This is also incorporated pressure control and was designed to investigate problems of tip cavitation, noise and Reynolds number scaling. A number of graduate students were able to pursue advanced degrees in these facilities including myself, Roy Bowerman (BS 51, MS 52, Eng 55), Wilbur Swanson (BS 44 MS 48, Eng 48), Dean Raines (BS 50, MS 51, PhD 54), Robert Katz (PhD 58), Joseph Neustein (PhD 57), Richard Wade (PhD 65) and three naval students who received their Engineers Degrees in the period 1960-65.

During this period, the old Hydraulic Machinery Laboratory was inactive except for occasional use as a measurement facility for special small-scale industrial work. As plans for the development of the California Aqueduct System designed to bring northern California water over the Tehachapi mountains to southern California became clear, two of us (myself and Prof. A. Ingersoll, Civil Engineering) approached the Chief Engineer of the State of California to explore options for testing the proposed pumps in our Hydraulic Machinery Laboratory. We soon learnt that preliminary tests had already been carried out in the National Engineering Laboratory of East Kilbride, Scotland, a newly-constructed facility for hydraulic testing of all types with larger power levels and flow levels than we were could provide. That ended our expectations for the Pump Lab in its current form. For that reason, there was no serious objection to the remodeling of the west end of the Guggenheim Laboratory and that renovation produced aeronautical laboratory space, teaching space and a home for the aero library. So all of the Pump Lab facilities were dismantled and carted away.

But often in reseach it becomes necessary to make a fresh start and, though it was not anticipated at the time and new, and third, phase of the research on pump hydrodynamics at Caltech would not be long in emerging. Even in the early days, it would have been clear to the astute observer that there were serious issues associated with the unsteady flows and forces that were becoming increasingly serious as the rotating speeds crept up. These issues became critical in the space propulsion efforts of the 1960s and 70s. My colleague, Chris Brennen, takes up this story in Part 3 of the Pump Lab History.

Last updated 3/9/07.

Christopher E. Brennen