Naval Facilities Engineering Systems Command, Engineering and Expeditionary Warfare Center (NAVFAC EXWC) structural engineer Dr. Robert Zueck of the capital improvements department, is awarded the Dr. Delores M. Etter 2021 Individual Scientist Award for his impactful contributions to the warfighting capabilities of the Navy and Marine Corps.
In 2020, Dr. Zueck and a team of nonlinear analysts at NAFVAC EXWC wanted to discover a way to reduce fluid drag (a resistive force) from water flow and wind. They focused on a commonly accepted belief that structural vibrations amplify drag. With most of the published information supporting this belief, codes and standards for designing ocean structures had begun to require even higher levels of applied drag force to account for how structural vibrations could amplify fluid drag. Using the correct geometric nonlinear physics, Dr. Zueck and his team discovered through specialized experimentation and simulation that vibrations do not amplify drag.
In 2018, Dr. Zueck began studying how natural, nonlinear space-time physics allows geometrically complex vibrations to initiate, grow and sustain themselves. In 2020, Dr. Zueck applied his 2018 research results to improve the Navy’s capabilities for designing, analyzing, deploying and maintaining reliable subsea arrays, towed sensors, ship moorings, subsea pipelines, guyed towers, transmission lines and other cable-like Naval structures.
Since 1970, researchers have believed that vortex-induced vibrations (VIV) increase fluid drag as much as five times. The largest amplitude of VIV can occur perpendicular of the drag direction. Consequently, the larger the VIV amplitude, the more researchers believe fluid flow is altered, and therefore makes the drag load more amplified. By eliminating the above requirements for drag amplification, the Department of Defense (DOD) theoretically would able to make marine structures lighter, safer, and ultimately less expensive, while providing better operational agility, performance and lethality.
Dr. Zueck hypothesized that VIV cannot amplify drag. His team proved his hypothesis using two separate models using experimentation and simulation. Through testing, instead of amplifying drag, both models showed that VIV slightly reduces fluid drag. Consequently, Dr. Zueck’s findings were published and later presented to an international VIV subcommittee. Moreover, Dr. Zueck and his team continued to encourage academia, including the Norwegian University of Science and Technology, the Naval Postgraduate School, and the U.S. Naval Academy, to continue performing experiments with alternative structures to see how they interact in alternative fluid environments—in hopes of better proving Dr. Zueck’s original hypothesis.
“To help put our recent research results into a broad DOD perspective, let me pose the following questions,” said Zueck. “What limits the speed of a fighter plane? What causes a rocket to veer off target? What degrades the acoustic performance of an undersea array? The answer for all three questions is the unusual vibrations that moving air, gravity or water induce into the structure of a plane, a rocket, or an undersea array. Our recent research reveals the physical basis (nonlinear relative-motion geometrics) for these unwanted vibrations, and thus helps us all eliminate these vibrations and improve the performance of military hardware beyond current limits.”
The relevance of Dr. Zueck’s findings is highly impactful for the future structural development of countless DOD weapons, sensors, devices, platforms and facilities.
“Behind all research results are the giants that came before us and the team members that helped us. In each of the technical papers that I have written, I have acknowledged those who specifically helped and inspired. They deserve more recognition than I do,” said Zueck.
“At NAVFAC EXWC we anticipate and act with agility through the style of teamwork that Dr. Zueck and his team exemplify,” said Kail Macias, NAVFAC EXWC Technical Director and senior leader. “Our warfighters require initiative from our DOD engineers and scientists that anticipate, study, and solve the toughest problems, and create the high-velocity outcomes that win war or avoid them altogether.”
The Dr. Delores M. Etter Award is presented annually to scientists and engineers who have clearly demonstrated superior accomplishments—both technically outstanding and highly beneficial to the Department of the Navy and the DOD. The selection process for the Dr. Delores M. Etter Award is highly competitive, with each submission aggressively demonstrating advanced scientific and engineering achievement.
To date, three employees of NAVFAC EXWC have earned an individual Dr. Delores M. Etter Award. Both the NAVFAC EXWC Maritime Test Bed and teams from the Seismo-Hydoacoustic Data Acquisition System have also earned a Dr. Delores M. Etter Team Award.
About Naval Facilities Engineering Systems Command, Engineering and Expeditionary Warfare Center (NAVFAC EXWC):
NAVFAC EXWC is a command of more than 1,300 dedicated federal employees, contractors, and military personnel who provide science, research, development, testing, evaluation, specialized engineering, and mobile logistics capabilities to deliver sustainable facility and pragmatic expeditionary solutions to the warfighter.