Home Critical engine Iowa State and Danfoss Build America’s Largest Public Institute Dynamometer

Iowa State and Danfoss Build America’s Largest Public Institute Dynamometer


Athletes can measure the performance of their heart and lungs on a treadmill, but testing the engine efficiency and emissions of a skid steer loader requires a much larger setup.

Iowa State University’s BioCentury Research Farm, located between Ames and Boone, showcased its new off-road vehicle chassis dynamometer lab at an open house this week — the result of a collaboration with the university and Danfoss Power Solutions, based in Ames. A dynamometer is a device used to measure engine power.

The lab won’t officially open until November, but the university previewed the facility during this week. Farm progress showheld nearby.

The dynamometer at the heart of the lab is a massive machine that can hold other massive machines on it – everything from “small utility tractors to very large four-wheel drives” including the largest agricultural sprayer or combine harvester, Stuart said. Birrell, a professor in the Department of Agricultural and Biosystems Engineering at Iowa State, who led the development of the lab.

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How big is the Iowa State Dynamometer?

The new lab has the only dynamometer of its size in a public institution in the United States.

Each of the dynamometer rollers – of which there are four sets of six – weighs over 26 tons. The entire machine can operate at over 166 times the amperage load of that drawn from a household electrical outlet, requiring a special line to the installation from a nearby substation.

Birrell said that when the dynamometer is working, it usually generates energy that feeds back into the power grid.

Each set of rollers can independently test one corner of a vehicle up to 600 horsepower. Chains anchor vehicles in place to prevent them from rolling.

The dynamometer hasn’t worked with loads yet, but it can alternate speed and torque to simulate a climbing and braking vehicle. An experiment could last for days, but Birrell said vehicle tires can overheat if used for that long, so most tests will only last about three hours.

“It gives us a unique capability that we didn’t have before,” Birrell said.

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What will Danfoss Power Solutions use the dynamometer for?

Improving the efficiency of large vehicles is key to reducing harmful emissions, Birrell said.

Internal combustion engines release greenhouse gases and climate-changing air pollutants, such as carbon dioxide and nitrous oxide, which the lab can measure. It can also measure the production of carbon monoxide and hydrocarbons, as well as the amount of fuel used.

Danfoss Power Solutions donated $1.8 million for the lab. Birrell said that covered about two-thirds of the cost.

The laboratory is a public facility not controlled by Danfoss or any other private entity. But Birrell said it would give manufacturers an opportunity to improve vehicle design, particularly the powertrain, the system of parts that moves a vehicle forward.

Iowa State University showcases its new off-road vehicle chassis dynamometer lab during an open house at the university's BioCentury Research Farm, Aug. 31, 2022, in Boone, Iowa.

Lindsay Schleisman, a spokesperson for Danfoss Power Solutions, said the company plans to use the dynamometer for “all-terrain vehicle research and development”, to gather accurate and repeatable vehicle performance data that would otherwise be difficult to obtain outside.

The company has field testing capabilities at application development centers, including Ames, but Schleisman said the dynamometer will improve application support for customers and reduce design and research time.

“We will also continue to support the facility by providing our technical expertise, which in turn will help ISU support student education and research. We have a long, symbiotic relationship with the State of Iowa “Schleisman said.

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Phillip Sitter covers education for the Ames Tribune, including Iowa State University and PreK-12 schools in Ames and elsewhere in Story County. Phillip can be contacted by email at [email protected] He’s on Twitter @pslifeisabeauty.