History of the St. Anthony Falls Laboratory

What is SAFL? Who works here? What do they do? Read the answers to those questions with an article and video from our friends at University Relations.





Since opening its doors in 1938, the St. Anthony Falls Laboratory (SAFL) has fostered  a consistent legacy of academic excellence and cutting-edge fluid mechanics research. Our sucess has always depended on the passion for excellence, spirit of collaboration, and openness to new ideas found in our faculty, staff, and students. Learn more about our legacy of excellence by clicking on the links below. 


In 2010, The St. Anthony Falls Laboratory received funding from the National Science Foundation’s American Recovery and Reinvestment Act, an initiative designed to renovate the Laboratory's research facilities. Construction began in 2012 with the grand reopening of the facilities in 2014. One thing that was included in the renovation was the update of the EcoFluids Laboratory. Even though it existed before the renovation, the upgrade included many important facilities and amenities that are now vital to the lab. For example, the new Bioflume facility allows scientists to literally see their biology-based research experiments through the plexiglass walls, which also allow sunlight to promote photosynthesis. The EcoFluids Lab also received air and temperature control, biological fume hoods, and a new lab space for microbiology and chemistry research.

The upgraded SAFL Main Channel now includes a new wave generator electrical drive system along with an upgraded observation area; sediment recirculation sump, auger, and pump; and a restored downstream tailwater gate. A water discharge control system was also added to allow researchers to start, stop, and monitor gate position in the Main Channel.

In the two upgraded delta basin facilities, research has been expanded on the front of shoreline and deltaic experiments. These facilities received new data acquisition carriages and new wave and tidal generators.

The Wind Tunnel renovation included a restoration of the mechanical, humidity, and temperature control systems. These updates are used today for more advanced research to further study the relationships between turbines, how to maximize win energy efficiency, etc.

During this time, Fotis Sotiropoulos served as SAFL's Director. Read his beautiful essay in which he reflects on the significance of SAFL to his life and to the global research community.

SAFL Today

Almost 80 years after it was first opened, the Laboratory has grown to be a 4,880 square meter facility that is still located on the banks of the Mississippi River. Our laboratory functions at the intersection of science and engineering to collaborate solutions to real-world fluid flow problems. SAFL serves as a resource for departments across the Twin Cities campus, the statewide University system, and the broader research community. Our connections and collaborations reach across the country and all over the world. We partner with local, state and federal agencies; private consulting firms; businesses of many kinds; technical associations; and other educational institutions to expand knowledge and solve problems.

Our mission is threefold:

  1. To advance fundamental knowledge in engineering, environmental, geophysical, and biological fluid mechanics by conducting cross-cutting research that integrates disciplines in science and engineering;
  2. To benefit society by implementing this knowledge to develop physics-based, affordable, and sustainable engineering solutions to major environmental, water, ecosystem, health, and energy-related problems; and
  3. To disseminate new knowledge to UMN students, he engineering and scientific community, and the public by educational and outreach activities and partnerships with government and industry. 

Research at SAFL is categorized into three primary categories: fundamental fluid mechanics research, environment, and energy. These research thrusts are paired with state-of-the-art facilities that support a diverse range of fluid dynamics research.