Improving fan efficiency in barns

A graduate student in agricultural and biosystems engineering is developing a new airflow measurement device.

Katlyn DeVoeKatlyn DeVoe grew up on a dairy farm in in Juda, a small town in southern Wisconsin, where her and her family milked 100 head of cattle. When she was ready to go to college, she wanted to continue to learn more about the dairy industry at a strong university that still offered a small-town feeling.  

Once she visited Iowa State, she fell in love with the campus, the staff, and the agricultural engineering department, and she knew Ames would be her home away from home.

Throughout her years as an undergraduate student, DeVoe excelled at her studies and proved to be an excellent student. When her junior year rolled around she was asked by Steven Hoff, professor in agricultural and biosystems engineering, to help him as an undergraduate research assistant assiting in t barn leakage studies.

DeVoe wasn’t thinking about graduate school at the time, but Hoff motivated her to pursue the concurrent graduate program that allows students to take one year of graduate school alongside their senior-year studies. “I was not interested in anything more than four years of school, but the concurrent program allows me to only have to take one more year of schooling, so I figured I would go for it,” explains DeVoe.

Currently, DeVoe is working to develop a light-weight, portable device to analyze the airflow of fans in barns that contain cattle, hogs or poultry.

The mapping tool is called SWEAP (Segmented Wand for Evaluating Airflow Performance) and is meant to be a supplemental tool to FANS, the traditional and most accurate airflow mapping system in the agricultural fans research community. DeVoe says FANS can be cumbersome to use, making it difficult to measure multiple fans across multiple rooms and barns. That’s where SWEAP can help.

“Personnel can map multiple fans in quick succession using SWEAP, which is calibrated to be within 5% accuracy of the FANS unit,” she explains. “If a fan’s airflow measurement is questionable, they can then use the FANS unit to double check and then locate the problem to allow the fan to run at its maximum rated airflow capacity.”

DeVoe will present a presentation over her paper  on the research during the Annual International Meeting (AIM) for ASABE this July.

She is also a teaching assistant for ABE 216, Fundamentals of Agricultural and Biosystems Engineering, which is taught by Hoff. Next semester, DeVoe plans to teach some lectures for this course.

Once she graduates, DeVoe plans to pursue a position in the dairy industry with the possibility of returning to receive her Ph.D.

One thought on “Improving fan efficiency in barns

  1. Ms. DeVoe et al, As most of us involved in research know, the only research that gets funded is that which has the possibility of generating return on investment either for licensing through technology transfer, or by creating a specific “thing-oid” that meets the needs of a consumer. It seems reasonable to me that creating additional air exchanges meant to cool or warm a “barn” (the old school wood or the modern post and steel genre), is to look at where, when and why various thermals develop initially. If you would travel to Manning, Iowa you would be able to view an authentic German “hausbarn”, or house barn (Duh. Didn’t see that one coming). A home is built over the shelter for the animals, as well as their rations. Not that it work at my house, air enters the lower portion of the barn, is warmed at night by the presence of animals, travels up through the house and out by the humble notion of convection. Go check (Czech?) it out. To round this up (round barns, an interesting concept in of itself) by creating subterranean square meters of ambient temperature air, one could increase air exchanges at a greater velocity – than not by simply sticking with the original design. The cupola on top of old barns was not just for esthetic purposes. Either by passive or mechanical control, the barn temperature was somewhat able to be controlled by raising or lowering the number of air exchanges rising and exiting the cupola. An interesting and cheap-ish experiment would involve modifying and locating smoke detectors in each window of the sample barn(s). Smoke detectors contain a minute quantity of the element Americium, plus a detector some small distance away. As particulate matter passes through the air gap, density (D=M/V – 8th grade, Cambria, Iowa) attenuation of the radiation is measured and if the high end range of normal yuck in the air is reached, the alarm goes off. Like… when my wife cooks meatloaf in the oven. Whatever “it” is, sets off the alarm. Data points would include but not be limited to time of day, air velocity at the windows and or doors (use modified “muffin fans” from old big box computers), temperature at each station plus the sunny and shady side of the barn, the barometric pressure (laws from the Dead Old Guys Club) so you can make corrections for pressure, volume and temperature, and voila! Life, Liberty and the Pursuit of data! Find a starving EE post doc and have him or her figure out how to create a wiring harness or use a really big USB hub to cram the incoming data into a longitudinal graphics program (oh, like what a medical EEG utilizes, and look for statistical trends. Change variables such as doors open, ambient temperature, humidity (not the “relative” kind, the other. Go over to the meteorologists and borrow a “sling psychrometer” and learn to use it for measuring humidity. No batteries required – muscles, yes. A very old school weather tool. You may only be able to set this rig up in only a few barns due to cost and time, so forget The Law of Large Numbers and quite likely inferential stats. Not enough samples. You could use descriptive stats to quantify individual locations, and provide recommendations based on what does and what doesn’t work, i.e., what happened when I… did this. Bring a good book and maybe a couple cold one’s. Life in the slow lane for sure. Best regards, JN

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