Bolzano, in Italy’s mountainous South Tyrol province, can have very hot summers and cold winters – at least by Italian standards – but it never really experiences extreme weather conditions. However, at the city’s NOI Techpark, the mercury can drop from -40 ° C to 60 ° C for consecutive days.

These massive temperature fluctuations occur within the confines of terraXcube, an environmental simulation center that can replicate a range of dramatically different climatic conditions – from severe blizzards to torrential rains to searing desert heat – at the touch of a button. button. The goal? To study the effects of extreme environments on humans, plants and even machines.

People ranging from pilots to adventurers use terraXcube to acclimate to extreme weather conditions. The facility allows them to test their physical limits in a safe and controlled environment.

Photography Manuela Schirra & Fabrizio Giraldi

terraXcube is the brainchild of Hermann Brugger, founder of the Institute for Mountain Emergency Medicine at Eurac Research, a private research center in Bolzano. Frustrated with the safety risks, logistical challenges, and high costs of conducting high altitude experiments, he began to dream of an environmental simulator that would allow for safe, repeatable, and controlled test conditions – and so on. is how terraXcube was born.

The facility has six test chambers of three different sizes, equipped with sophisticated hypobaric, altitude and environmental simulation technology, including rain, snow and wind production systems, as well as controls temperature and humidity. Additionally, atmospheric pressure can be reduced down to 300 mbar to replicate high altitude conditions, while lights can be turned up or down to simulate day and night. “We can reproduce the harshest and most extreme settings in the world in these chambers,” explains Christian Steurer, manager of terraXcube.

The temperature in the test chambers is adjusted at a rate of 0.5 ° C per minute, while the simulated altitude rises at a maximum rate of 6 meters per second. Here, a technician inspects a chamber during the pressurization and cooling phase.

Photography Manuela Schirra & Fabrizio Giraldi

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