Last week, the University of Maine’s Advanced Structures and Composites Center established the $13.8 million Harold Alfond W2 Ocean Engineering Laboratory and Advanced Manufacturing Laboratory. The new facility will soon unveil its centerpiece – an ocean simulator that features a 100-foot pool that uses 32 fans and 16 paddles to generate wind and waves. The facility as a whole will be able to simulate waves over 100 feet tall and winds higher than 200 mph on scale models to test products.

“It’s really advancing society by better understanding the ocean — the way things survive in the ocean,” said Professor Habib Dagher, executive director of the UMaine Advanced Structures and Composites Center.

The facility took six years to come to life. According to Dagher, the laboratory as a whole will be able to test the strength and seaworthiness of a variety of structures, including boats, offshore wind turbines, tidal and wave energy facilities, aquaculture ventures, oil and gas equipment and other “critical infrastructure.”  He adds it will also be able to use models of coastal cities to simulate how they will be impacted by sea level rise.

“These will be the only labs of this kind in Maine with world-class capabilities to educate students and conduct cutting-edge research and development,” said Dagher. “The R&D will support the growth of the ocean economies and shipbuilding sectors in Maine and the nation, as well as the growth of digital and additive manufacturing of thermoplastic composite materials.”

U.S. Sen. Susan Collins (R-ME) lauded the creation of the facility, noting how critical investment in ocean engineering and advanced manufacturing education and research will contribute to the growth of jobs and infrastructure in Maine.

“I am delighted that after years of hard work, the University of Maine is establishing world-class research capabilities in ocean engineering and advanced composites manufacturing to help Maine and the nation improve our industrial competitiveness in boatbuilding, renewable energy and aquaculture, and to help protect our coastal cities from major storms,” said Collins in a November 23 statement. “Maine has a long and impressive history in both boatbuilding and composites manufacturing. The important investment in this laboratory at UMaine builds on our state’s tradition of excellence in ocean engineering.”

Dagher says the facility is already attracting interest from builders, as workers were testing a model of a facility that would harness energy from waves. A half-dozen businesses have lined up to use it over the next few weeks.