The Racetrack Flume

The racetrack flume is modeled after one at the University of Washington’s Friday Harbor Laboratory (Nowell et al. 1989). The racetrack flume is ideal for experiments on larval settlement, infauna and epifauna, and on the effects of flow on organisms or sediment transport.


The flume is oval with a working channel length of 620 cm and width of 70 cm. The maximum water depth is 25 cm. At 10-cm water depth, the water volume is ~ 1570 L. The flume is constructed of seawater-resistant materials. The flume has two deep boxes along the working channel at 2.9 and 4.8 m from the head of the channel. These boxes typically contain sediments and associated benthic organisms, or can be modified to accept shallow or specialized treatment trays.

Water temperature between 10 - 20oC can be maintained. Four adjustable vanes in each turning section minimize secondary flows created as water moves around the bends. Flow is driven by 28 paddles distributed along an endless chain spanning the length of the return channel. Each paddle is articulated to enter, move through, and leave the water perpendicularly, minimizing shear forces. With a 10-cm water depth, near surface flow speeds up to 48 cm sec-1 can be obtained. Faster flow speeds are possible with a greater water depth. For example, with a 14-cm water depth, a speed of 64 cm sec-1 has been achieved.

Flow measurement via Particle-Image Velocimetry (PIV) may be possible. See the Biological Physical Interactions Laboratory web page for more information.