The history of Machine Laboratory 

The first stage of the construction works on the facilities of Gdańsk University of Technology (Königlische Technische Hochschule zu Danzig) took place in the period from 1900 to 1904. Under the supervision of Albert Carsten, the architect, the buildings of the Main Facility, the Faculty of Chemistry, Electrical Engineering and the Machine Laboratory were erected. The combined cubic capacity of the erected buildings exceeded 200,000 m3. Similar style and well-thought concept are the characteristic features of the above mentioned buildings. The building of the Machine Laboratory boasts a characteristic water tower, seemingly attached to the chimney became one of the most unique building of the whole university complex. The facilities of Gdańsk University of Technology are located in Wrzeszcz, in an elevated area of beautiful landscape; the total area of the land occupied by the facilities, including the greenery, is 6,4 ha. The opening ceremony combined with the inauguration of the first academic year was held on 6 October 1904, in the presence of the emperor Wilhelm II. The Machine Laboratory was the house of the first power station, supplying the electrical power to the university as well as to the city and port of Gdańsk. However, the most basic and important task of the laboratory was to realize the didactic tasks, mostly for the students of the Faculty of Mechanical Engineering. Luckily, the building did not suffer major damage after World War II, apart from some broken windows and devastated interiors. This condition of the Laboratory facilitated the beginning of the didactic classes on thermal measurements and machine research as early as in spring of 1946. Machine Laboratory is a perfect showcase of the Faculty of Mechanical Engineering, a great heritage of technology and architecture of the early 20th century. After undergoing expansion and renovation in 1994-1997, the Laboratory serves the students and the staff of Gdańsk University of Technology.

To heat all the buildings within the facilities, it was necessary to provide the steam in the amount of approximately 10 000 kg/hour. The power demand to provide the lighting for all the buildings and the perimeter, to provide the power for ventilators, extractor fans, pumps and auxiliary machines was approximately 185 kW. The combined power of the load points installed for the needs of research within the Institute of Electrical Engineering, Chemistry and Physics reached approximately 250 kW, however, it was assumed that the devices will not operate simultaneously. The University’s demand for potable water, water for washing-up, cleaning and watering reached approximately 150m3/day. Such amount of water had to be provided to the tank with capacity of 50m3, located in the water tower, at the height of 15 meters, in order to make it available even on the top floors of the building. Water for the boilers was provided by means of the municipal water supply network. As far as the steam engines are concerned, they operated within a closed-circuit system. Alongside the newly erected buildings of Gdańsk University of Technology, the necessary Machine Laboratory was being built. The equipment of the laboratory resulted directly from the necessity of providing the university with heat, water and electricity. The equipment and some of the devices were designed by professor Josse. They were designed in such a way as to cater for the needs of the university and, at the same time, perform the didactic tasks for the students of the Faculty of Machine Construction and Electrical Engineering. The Laboratory building consisted of the engine and machine room with the basement, adjacent boiler room and the chimney, combined with the water tower which was located between them. The building also featured a single-level set of rooms located along the eastern wall of the engine and machine room. An evaporating tower and the engineer’s room were located nearby. In order to produce the sufficient amount of steam, four 0,65 MPa boilers were used. The combined steam output reached 4x2400 kg/hour. For educational reasons two types of boilers were selected; they featured varied technical solutions and the heating surface of 175 and 97 m2 respectively. Heating steam was conducted through the pipeline placed in a brick duct from the Machine Laboratory through the Faculty of Electrical Engineering building to the Faculty of Chemistry building. Apart from the heating system boilers, the boiler room also featured three high-pressure boilers to produce the steam powering the steam engines. Similarly to the heating boilers, in order to meet the didactic requirements two high-pressure boilers were selected; their parameters were similar, however they were produced by two different companies. The heating surface of both boilers was 170 m2, the steam output was 1600 kg/hour and 1100 kg/hour respectively, while the pressure reached 0,5 MPa. Both boilers were additionally equipped with the steam heater. Solely for the didactic needs, the boiler room was also equipped with a smaller boiler whose heating surface was 64,7 m2, steam output 1800 kg/hour and the steam pressure 1,2 MPa. The boilers were coal fired. The coal was delivered to the boiler room by means of trolleys. The steam produced in the boilers was used to power:

  • Piston triple expansion steam engine whose nominal steam demand was 500 kg/hour, the engine powered the DC current generators whose power output was 160 kW,
  • Steam turbine whose steam demand was 1900 kg/hour, directly connected to the DC current generator whose power output was 150 kW,
  • Steam engine whose steam demand was 100 kg/hour; the engine was powering plunger water pump whose rate of delivery was 0,3 m3/hour, the pump was used to fill in the tank in the water tower.

High-pressure pipelines and valve system able to withstand the pressure of 1,5 MPa and steam temperature of 1500C was designed in such a way as to enable the powering of each steam engine from any utility boiler. The basement of the machine laboratory featured rectangular well shaft. The shaft was parted with a wall and it featured a self acting water level set point. Cooled water was flowing from the evaporating tower to the cool water chamber through the return pipeline. At the end, the pipeline featured the flow regulating valve, controlled by means of a float which kept the constant level of cold water. Municipal water supply pipeline was also directed to the cool water chamber. In such a way, the required amount of cold water necessary for the research was provided. Opening the valve of the municipal water supply system made the float to close the supply of the water from the cooling facility. The flow of cold water to the surface condenser of the steam engine was provided by electrical centrifugal pump. The amount of water directed to the condenser was controlled by means of damping the flow in the pump pressure conduit. The second chamber of the well shaft received hot water from the steam engine. Then, with the aid of electrical centrifugal pump with the rate of delivery of 60m3/hour it was pumped through the shared pipeline to the evaporating tower. The amount of water taken in by the centrifugal pump was controlled by means of a float in such a way that the hot water level remained constant at all times. Double valve was fitted on the suction line for that purpose. To ensure safety, hot water chamber featured spillway connected to the sewerage system. The suction lines of both centrifugal pumps were equipped with strainers; hence they were always flooded and sucked water directly after starting up. The selection of the devices, as well as their location, enabled the automatic water circulation, regulation of the water level in the well chambers and facilitated the start-up of the steam engines with limited number of service personnel.

In order to cool down the water within the closed circuit evaporating tower with the flow rate of up to 175 m3/hour was erected. The steel construction structure of the tower, measuring 28 meters, was set on a granite foundation behind the engine room. The evaporating tower featured two water pipelines: feeding pipeline with the diameter of 200mm and return pipeline with the diameter of 225 mm. Lower section of the evaporating tower – wet deck surface had oval shape and acted as a heat exchanger. Circular chimney was erected on the wet deck surface in order to ensure the free thrust of air. The tented roof of the evaporating tower featured a pinnacle. Hot water flowed to the wet deck surface from the height of 7,4 m above the ground level and it dropped to lower levels made of steel sheet with numerous openings. Fresh air used to cool water down entered through the rectangular openings in the oval base of the tower. The air moved through the levels and after cooling the water down, the heated air went up to the chimney. In 1912 the building of the Machine Laboratory was expanded by approximately one third of its original size. In the interwar period the whole university underwent further expansion which also included the Machine Laboratory. In 1929 additional floor was added. It accommodated laboratory rooms and office rooms for the employees. The free space of the engine room was filled with new devices, such as the combustion compression-ignition engine. Single-level wing was added on the western side as a workshop.

By the end of World War II, right after liberating Gdańsk, when the Main Building of the University was damaged in 60%, the building of the Machine Laboratory did not suffer major damage, save for some broken windows and interior devastation. Basic machines and devices remained, however the measurement apparatus and didactic aids were taken away. In 1945 the building of the Machine Laboratory became the office of the delegation of the Ministry of Education for Gdańsk University of Technology, headed by Stanisław Turski, Phd. In May and June 1945 the boiler room adjacent to the western wall of the engine room was restarted along with the university’s powers station which also provided power to the city and port facilities. In the Spring of 1946 laboratory classes on thermal measurement and machine research were initiated in the facilities of the Machine Laboratory. The following five years was marked by hard organizational work which resulted in creating the thermal measurement workshop supervised by Professor Wiktor Wiśniowski and machine and thermal devices research laboratory supervised by Professor Antoni Kozłowski and, later on, by Professor Feliks Sauter. Each year the workshops and research stations were being improved and equipped with new measurement apparatus.

In 1954 a new boiler room designed by Professor Antoni Kozłowski, the principal of the Department of Steam Boilers. The boiler room featured, among others, sectional boiler with transverse boiler drum. Starting from 1956, the old boiler room adjacent to the engine room was being decommissioned. Boiler devices were dismantled successively. Some parts were scrapped while the ones which had some historical value were given to power plants which engaged in the creation of a museum of technology. The boiler room was adapted to the research laboratory for ventilation devices of large air-conditioning central units. In 1961, the room was used to create the laboratory of plastics for the Faculty of Shipbuilding. At the turn of 1960’s and 1970’s the machines and devices were recognized as no longer fit for use and obsolete for the needs of didactics. Gradually, the redundand devices were being scrapped and replaced with the new ones. In this period the following research and didactic stations were created:

· combustion engine Puck B-90,

· steam turbine 1P04-0-2,

· piston compressor type WAN-E,

· centrifugal fan,

Water heater boiler type OK1-2,5,

· compressor chiller,

· heat exchanger.

In the period of 1994-1997 a complex expansion and modernization of the Machine Laboratory took place. The design and technological assumptions of the project were prepared by Andrzej Wróblewski, MSc, Eng who also supervised the works. The building permit design was developed by architect Henryk Sekular, MSc, Eng. The project was financed from the means of the State Committee for Scientific Research and Gdańsk University of Technology. The expansion and modernization covered the re-construction of the western wing, re-construction of the basement and the ground floor and general repair of the central nave of the main engine room. Material scope of the project includes the construction of the new heating substation and electrical switchgear with power conveyance systems, new water and gas supply system. The completed works yielded high-tech laboratory base featuring new power supply systems, installations, modernized research and didactic stations and new laboratory space.

The new laboratory space was filled with didactic and research and development stations equipped with unique apparatus, conforming to the modern curriculum and the world’s newest trends in research and science:

  • Heat and mass exchange by means of liquid crystal thermography,
  • Boiling and condensation in the flow and the mechanisms governing the creation and movement of steam bubbles,
  • Calibration and marking the temperature measurement devices,
  • Physical and numerical modelling of the flame in boiler combustion chambers with spin-type burners,
  • Recuperation of the waste heat from the technological process, among others from power units,
  • Condensation of synthetic factors on pipe bundles,
  • Heat recuperation in cooling and air-conditioning systems,
  • Numerical and physical modelling of energy conversion process, high-temperature burning and gasification of biomass and communal waste,
  • Household power plant

The building of the Machine Laboratory unceasingly enraptures with its beauty. The equipment of the laboratory, as well as the function of the building, underwent numerous changes. It started as a power plant with didactic functions and became fully-fledged didactic and scientific research station. Steam engines were gradually replaced by combustion engines which, in turn, were replaced by power systems and research stations for controlling thermal processes. There has always been, however, a single idea behind the laboratory: to educate the best mechanic engineers using the best and most modern equipment. In the last 60 years of the history of Gdańsk University of Technology more than 15500 mechanic engineers received their education in the premises of the laboratory.