ASME-Landmark:Alden Research Laboratory Rotating Boom


In need of a moving test stand for hydraulic experiments and for rating current meters, Professor Charles Metcalf Allen, head of the Alden Hydraulic Laboratory from 1896 to 1950, designed a rotating test boom in 1908.

The original boom was constructed of wood on a submerged rock foundation located about 45 feet from shore in a pond adjacent to the laboratory. This boom had a 42-foot testing arm balanced by a 21-foot arm loaded with counterweights. Rotational power was supplied by a 23-inch Hercules water turbine located onshore. The power from the turbine was transmitted to the boom through a rope and pulley drive system, producing tip speeds of up to teen feet per second. In 1911, the original boom was replaced by an equal-arm, 84-foot steel boom, and the turbine drive system was replaced by an electric motor in 1936.

Over the years, the rotating boom was used in experiments and tests for current meter rating, aircraft propellers, artillery shell ballistics (particularly during World War I), ships' logs, pilot tubes, and more. Several of the propellers from the Alden Hydraulic Laboratory's experiments are on permanent display at the Smithsonian Institution's National Air and Space Museum in Washington, D.C., as well as at the Alden Research Laboratory.

As of 2016, the Alden Research Laboratory remains as the oldest continuously operating hydraulic laboratory in the United States. See ASME website for more information