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Pennsylvania State University Applied Research Laboratory

Pennsylvania State University Applied Research Laboratory
Established 1945 (1945)
Research type applied research
Field of research
acoustics, guidance control, thermal energy, hydrodynamics, hydroacoustics, propulsion, navigation, communications
Director Paul E. Sullivan
Location University Park, Pennsylvania
Zip code
Campus University Park
Affiliations United States Department of Defense
Operating agency
Pennsylvania State University
Website .edu.psu.arlwww

The Pennsylvania State University Applied Research Laboratory (short: Penn State ARL or simply ARL), is a specialized research unit dedicated to interdisciplinary scientific research at the Penn State, University Park campus. The ARL is a DoD designated U.S. Navy University Affiliated Research Center. It is the university's largest research unit with over 1,000 faculty and staff.[1] The Laboratory ranks 2nd in DoD and 10th in NASA funding to universities.[2]

ARL maintains a long-term relationship with the Naval Sea Systems Command and the Office of Naval Research.


  • History 1
  • Laboratory Structure 2
  • Facilities 3
  • Acoustic Research 4
  • Fluid Dynamics Research 5
  • Nuclear Research 6
  • Space Research 7
    • Lunar Lion 7.1
  • See also 8
  • References 9
  • External links 10


The ARL was established in 1945 by the U.S. Navy when the Harvard Underwater Sound Laboratory (USL) was terminated and its torpedo division was moved to Penn State. Eric Walker, the USL's assistant director, moved to Penn State to become its first director from 1945 until 1951, when he became the president of the university.

Today, ARL operates over a dozen facilities ranging from acoustic research to fluid and nuclear.

Laboratory Structure

The ARL is made of six distinct research divisions:

  • Advanced Technology
    • Includes: Autonomous Control and Intelligent Systems, Systems and Unmanned Vehicle, Energy Science and Power Systems, Sonar Research and Development
  • Fluid and Structural Mechanics
    • Includes: Fluid Dynamics, Noise Control and Hydroacoustics, Computational and Mechanics, Research Facilities
  • Material and Manufacturing
    • Includes: Material Processing, Manufacturing System, Laser Processing, Composite Material, Systems and Operations Automation
  • Communications, Information, and Navigation
    • Includes: Communication Systems, Electromagnetics & Geospatial Systems, Information & Imaging, Visualization SEA Lab, Navigation Research & Development
  • Undersea Weapons
    • Includes: Torpedoes Systems, Weapon Systems Engineering, Technology Development and Transition, Systems Analysis and Simulation
  • Research and Academic Programs
    • Includes: Acoustics, Information Sciences and Technology


The Garfield Thomas Water Tunnel located at the Penn State main campus.

The Applied Research Laboratory operates a number of locations and off-site facilities.[3]

Acoustic Research

ARL operates the Structural Acoustics Laboratory which houses an array of tanks including an Acoustic Reverberant Tank and an Acoustic Test Tank for acoustic research projects. The facilities include complete instrumentation for measuring and calibrating transducers and transducer arrays. The Acoustic Test Tank is equipped with the instrumentation required for determining the acoustic characteristics of sonar devices designed for frequency response calibrations, radiation pattern plots, and impedance and admittance characterizations.[4]

Additionally, ARL operates a Large Anechoic Chamber with the "mission is to increase the knowledge and understanding of applied electromagnetics in key areas of defense and commercial systems utilizing communications, navigation, and sensor-based systems such as direction finding, for example." The facility is stationed in Warminster, Pennsylvania at the former Naval Air Warfare Center.[5]

Fluid Dynamics Research

The Garfield Thomas Water Tunnel was constructed shortly after the establishment of the ARL at Penn State in cooperation with the U.S. Navy for further torpedo research. The facility operates one of the largest circulating water tunnel in the world. It also operates an array of wind tunnels, glycerin tunnels, and anechoic chamber for used in many physics problems and experiments.

Nuclear Research

ARL operates the Advanced Nuclear Fuel Test Facility (ANFTF)[6] which is a Westinghouse-funded facility to test advanced power reactors and fuel component designs. The facility entered operation in 1996 with a fully functional 600 MWe nuclear power plant, the Westinghouse AP600. The facility's objective is to characterize the effect of different fuel grid spacers on the onset of the departure from nucleate boiling (DNB) phenomenon and to quantify the critical heat flux (CHF) as the DNB event occurs.[7][8]

Space Research

In September 4, 2013 an agreement has been reached between the Applied Research Laboratory and NASA's Lyndon B. Johnson Space Center.[9] The laboratory created the Space Systems Initiative which would allow the space center to provide bipropellant rockets and liquid methane/liquid oxygen control engines with the university to enabling students to gain a better understanding of rocket performance. Data and results would be shared with NASA.

Lunar Lion

The Penn State Lunar Lion is a team within the Applied Research Laboratory as part of the Space Systems Initiative which has joined the Google Lunar X Prize. The team is expected to build a robotic spacecraft that is four feet in diameter and weighs 500 pounds. The team hopes to land the craft on the moon in December 2015.[10] The project includes over 500 students and 50 faculty members.

See also


  1. ^
  2. ^
  3. ^ a b c d e
  4. ^
  5. ^
  6. ^
  7. ^
  8. ^
  9. ^
  10. ^

External links

  • ARL Homepage
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