Established in 1894 by Worcester Polytechnic Institute (WPI), Alden was the third university hydraulic laboratory in the United States. Initial interest in hydraulics was driven by the emerging hydro power industry. Holden was chosen as the lab’s location because it was historically a waterpower site having water rights to a 200-acre reservoir for saw, grist, and woolen mills and it was relatively close to WPI.
For any of the performance testing, a key element was measurement of input flow to a high accuracy, which led to the installation of the first major instrumentation – a 36 inch by 16 inch Herschel Venturi meter from the 1893 Columbian Exposition and a copper lined wooden weigh tank on a Fairbanks scale from the 1874 Philadelphia Centennial Exposition. Both instruments were used throughout most of the 20th Century. Charles M. Allen was the director of the laboratory for about 50 years, and his interest in hydro power performance led to the invention of the Salt Velocity Method of field flow measurement in 1934. Field performance testing of hydro turbines and pumps for various applications remains an area of great interest today.
An additional instrument of historic interest is the Alden Rotating Boom, which was named an ASME Historic Landmark in 1982. The boom was used for early propeller testing by David Gallup. It was also used in the calibration of current meters, ships’ logs, and the development of the Cole pitotmeter as it provided a known velocity to correlate to the instrument readings.
Alden contributed to the war effort in the 1940s through studies of the physics of the entry of projectiles into water. Early high speed photography equipment was developed for use with strobe lights to document the effect of projectile shape on entry stability in large glass sided tanks.
During the 1950s, the increase in power use demanded expansion of generation capacity and led to increased use of physical models for solving problems with circulating water systems, including the use of hydro thermal modeling to meet water quality requirements. This need resulted in the construction of 10 large test sheds to house these models. Physical models were applied to various flow problems such as pump intakes, emergency core cooling sumps, riverine problems, etc.
The issuance of the Clean Air Act in 1967 and the National Environmental Policy Act in 1969 ushered in a new focus of studies at Alden that continues to this day. Alden formed an Environmental Services Group in 1994 which has grown steadily to meet the increasing demands of industry. In 1996, our Numeric Modeling Group was created to keep Alden up-to-date on state-of-the-art computer modeling techniques. In 1999, air modeling capabilities were expanded, and our Air & Gas Flow Modeling Group has extensive physical and numerical modeling capabilities.
In the 21st Century, Alden continues to be a pioneering company dealing with complex flow problems in all types of media. The Environmental Services Group leads the field in fish protection and passage research and engineering, currently driven largely by the compliance requirements of the Clean Water Act Section 316(b). The Air & Gas Flow Modeling Group performs numerous studies. Computer modeling is used by all groups to provide cost-effective solutions.