Cavitation tunnels have played a critical role in the development of ships and other naval vehicles and the associated research applicable to the engineering of these vehicles. Particularly important has been the use of cavitation tunnels in the development of propulsion systems. The paper reviews some aspects of the historical development of the modern cavitation tunnel. It includes aspects of tunnel design such as size, speed, pressure range, acoustics, and materials. Model construction, installation, and instrumentation are discussed. Initially, the most innovative development occurred in 1895 with the invention of the cavitation tunnel by Sir Charles Parsons. More than 100 years later, the cavitation tunnel is still the key test facility used for cavitation research, test and evaluation. Technologies currently used for performance evaluation have changed greatly over those used only a decade or two ago. This has been in part due to incredible innovations in the area of instrumentation and digital electronics as well as the need to characterize modern propulsors in ways not previously required. The evolution of cavitation tunnel capabilities and the use of the tunnel in a large marine research, development, and design organization is largely reviewed by considering the various cavitation tunnels which have been constructed and utilized at the David Taylor Model Basin over several decades.

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