The Ray W. Herrick Laboratories - Who We Are.

Ray W. Herrick Laboratories, School of Mechanical Engineering, Purdue University,
177 S. Russell Street, West Lafayette, IN 47907-2099, USA.
Phone: +1 765 494 2132. Email:



Mission: An institution dedicated to graduate education and engineering research with emphasis on technology transfer to industry.

Vision: Overcome barriers between knowledge creation, transfer, and utilization in engineering research, industry application, and graduate education.


The Laboratories were 50 years old in 2008. Today we are part of the School of Mechanical Engineering, but the 10-20 Mechanical Engineering faculty and Architectural Engineering faculty who do research here collaborate on interdisciplinary research projects with faculty in the other Schools of Engineering and also with faculty in the College of Science and College of Health and Human Sciences and the College of Technology. There are four main technical areas of research with some over arching themes related to energy utilization and efficiency, reduction of pollutants in the environment, quality of life, and sustainability and safety.


Herrick Vision: Breaking Barriers

    The main technical areas are:
  1. High Performance Buildings, Thermal Systems and Air Quality
  2. Noise and Vibration Control, which includes research on Acoustics, Dynamics and Materials
  3. Electromechanical Systems: Controls, Signal Processing, Sensing, Estimation, Diagnostics and Prognostics.
  4. Perception-based Engineering:  Modeling of Human Response for Machine and System Optimization
Applications include smart buildings, alternative refrigerants, self diagnosing systems, noise reduction in transportation and air conditioning equipment, energy efficient machines, prediction and control of interior and exterior environmental noise, lighting and shading in buildings, compressors, appliances, electronic equipment cooling, new refrigeration cycles, aircraft interior air management, mitigation of chemical and biological transport in buildings, engine controls to optimize use of alternative fuels, aftertreatment systems for engines, power generation, tire-road surface design to reduce community noise, print quality and printer design, and tactile communications interfaces.

Currently we have just over ninety graduate students studying at the Laboratories. Over one-third are doing a Masters Thesis and the others are studying for a Ph.D. We have a number of visiting international scholars and also undergraduates involved in research projects. Many projects are sponsored by industry and all are relevant to industry needs, which is in keeping with our mission. Each student has many opportunities to interact with people from industry, including our Industrial Advisory Committee, which meets each year to review the Laboratories' activities and help inform, formulate and achieve goals related to our research operations.
In 2013 a new ($30M) Herrick Laboratories building was completed - this was built to address some of the long-term space needs and to provide improved infrastructure for the experimental component of the research in the electromechanical systems, buildings and thermal sciences areas of the laboratories. The Laboratories now occupy 2 buildings and part of a third building.  Our next big project is updating the acoustics facilities and the technical support space and infrastructure. 

We foster a community of sharing and of helping each other. One of our alums was so positive about this aspect of the labs that he coined an acronym FASTID-C: Family, Acceptance, Sharing, Trust, Interdependence, Diversity - Community.

A Brief History of the Ray W. Herrick Laboratories

by Ray Cohen, Emeritus Professor of Mechanical Engineering,
Ray W. Herrick Laboratories Director 1971-1993

The history of the Ray W. Herrick Laboratories begins with one man, Professor William E. Fontaine when he was talking with Ray Herrick, the principal owner of Tecumseh Products Company. Fontaine was spending a summer at the Company and they talked about establishing a graduate student thesis-oriented laboratory which would be funded by industry for students to work on industry projects for research subjects of their theses - an idea that had not yet become popular in the early 1950s. Fontaine recognized that engineering education would move from an empirical base to a more scientific base. Herrick liked his ideas and provided a sizable grant to Purdue University that made it possible to establish the Ray W. Herrick Laboratory for the benefit of industry, in particular the refrigeration industry. The facility came in the form of a 1920s horse barn, renovated and expanded for research in the mid-1960s. Transportation and machinery noise laboratory facilities were added later bringing the size of the Laboratories to more than 15,000 square feet. The Herrick family through their Herrick Foundation continued to support the Laboratories with other gifts, e.g. the endowed Herrick Professorship of Engineering, and now they have become one of the lead donors for another planed renovation and expansion to include a new office wing for use as a "living laboratory" to be a part of a "Research Center of Excellence for Advanced Buildings."

Early research at the Laboratories produced results in compressor engineering and heat transfer for the refrigeration and air conditioning fields. Later, research programs were added in other mechanical engineering disciplines - especially in engineering mechanics, acoustics and controls. Ray Herrick's and Bill Fontaine's dreams of industry funded research for graduate student theses became a reality. The majority of the research funds for the Laboratories came from the refrigeration and air conditioning industries in the beginning, but other industries also contributed in later years; the transportation industry has been noteworthy. The leadership of the Laboratories has been the responsibility of the directors: the founding director was Bill Fontaine, followed by Ray Cohen, and then Bob Bernhard. Currently the director is Patricia Davies. The faculty associated with the Laboratories now number more than a dozen professors directing the research of about 75 graduate students and about a dozen support office and technical staff. About 650 graduate students have completed their research at the Laboratories. Slightly more than half of their theses have direct application to problems associated with heating, refrigeration and air conditioning engineering, a statistic that certainly would warm the heart of the principal benefactor, Ray Herrick, were he alive today.

A partial list of research results includes the following:

  1. Better understanding of fatigue life of compressor valves by means of new measurement techniques,
  2. new computer models and computer simulations of compressors enabling performance predictions for specific dimensional changes proposed in design, including those for scroll compressor technology,
  3. new data about two-phase fluid flow of refrigerants for better design of heat exchangers,
  4. an understanding of the measurements of part load and transient performance of air conditioners and heat pumps when following the DOE test procedures,
  5. the evaluation of hydrocarbon/flame suppressant mixtures as refrigerants,
  6. the evaluation of refrigeration systems using alternative refrigerants,
  7. the development of automated fault detection and diagnostic methods of vapor compression cooling systems,
  8. the development of intelligent control algorithms for building systems,
  9. the optimization of thermo-acoustic cooling systems, advances in the theory and use of active noise and vibration control,
  10. the development of the two-microphone acoustic intensity method for measurement of noise directivity as well as intensity, a technique that reduced testing time for many manufacturers an order of magnitude,
  11. the development of near-field acoustic holography for improving practical measurements in industrial noise control,
  12. contributions to the understanding of what constitutes irritating noise,
  13. advances in the mathematical modeling and understanding of the use of foam for noise control,
  14. contributions to the design of controllers for transportation systems,
  15. smart sensing for machinery diagnostics and damage detection,
  16. the mathematical modeling of tires and the interaction of tires and the pavement related to tire noise and vehicle vibration and noise,
  17. the development of a Perception-based engineering program, and
  18. contributions to the science of indoor air quality, especially in airplanes.

The faculty of the Herrick Laboratories has not neglected their responsibility to the engineering profession. They have been active as committee members and officers in several engineering societies; for example, they currently provide editorial duties for the International Journal of HVAC&R Research, and the Journal of Sound and Vibration. They also have been instrumental in the development of specialized engineering conferences worldwide starting with the Noise Control Conference in 1971 and the Purdue Compressor Engineering Conference in 1972.

By all measures, the Ray W. Herrick Laboratories have been a success, and we can expect continued success enhanced by the planned new building.

The Past and the Present Herrick Directors

photo of Patricia Davies
portrait of Bob Bernhard
photo of Ray Cohen
photo of Bill Fontaine
Patricia Davies joined the Ray W. Herrick Laboratories in 1987 after completing her the Institute of Sound and Vibration Research, University of Southampton, UK. Her research is in the development and application of signal processing and model building techniques for acoustical and vibratory systems. Together with other faculty at Purdue, she started the Perception-based Engineering group, a collaboration between psychologists and engineers. As Director, Robert J. "Bob" Bernhard was responsible for bringing interdisciplinary transportation related centers to the Laboratories, including the Safe, Quiet and Durable Highway Center. His research at the Laboratories is in the area of noise and vibration control, with an emphasis on transportation noise and numerical acoustics. He served as Purdue's Associate Vice President for Research for Centers and Institutes until August 2007, when he became Vice President for Research at the University of Notre Dame. Raymond "Ray" Cohen provided leadership and years of dedication to the Laboratories during its period of expansion. His teaching and research interests were primarily in the mechanical systems area, specializing in computer simulation of positive displacement compressors. As a Professor of Mechanical Engineering, he retired with the title of The Herrick Professor Emeritus of Engineering. William E. "Bill" Fontaine was the founder and first director of the Ray W. Herrick Laboratories. He was a Professor of Mechanical Engineering, rising to the rank of a Distinguished Professor. He led the Laboratories with the concept of meeting the research needs of industry with graduate student thesis research that persists to this date. His research and teaching interests were mainly in the thermal science area.