If not for the classic 1937 seafaring movie Captains Courageous and inspiration from the sailor and sea captain Angus Walters, Alex Hay might have become an astrophysicist instead of an ocean physicist. “It was a coin toss,” between the two, he says.
Hay’s research project Multi-Scale Turbulence Measurement in the Aquatron Laboratory is based at Dalhousie University’s Aquatron, Canada’s largest university aquatic research facility. Through the project, Hay is working to determine whether turbulence measurements made remotely in highly turbulent flow with acoustic Doppler technologies agree with those made by turbulence sensors inserted directly into the flow. Hay says, “The answer to this question matters because quantifying turbulence in high-flow tidal channels is needed by the in-stream tidal power industry both for turbine design and for turbine performance monitoring.” He says that, while remote measurements in these environments is challenging enough, direct measurements are much more difficult, “…especially for the long-duration deployments required by the industry, in part because of the fragility of the tiny sensors used for the direct measurements.”
Hay adds that the research is also important because turbulence is fundamental to the way the ocean works, and these measurements will contribute to a better understanding of the turbulence phenomenon itself and to improved predictive skill of numerical ocean circulation models. The Multi-Scale Turbulence Measurement in the Aquatron Laboratory project is linked to several ongoing collaborative research projects on in-stream tidal energy here in Nova Scotia, the UK, and Australia.