A triumph of aerodynamics, the morphing surface that borrows from the science behind the golf ball will be used on vehicles to reduce drag and increase efficiency.
The Morphing Road
“Numerous studies of wrinkling have been done on flat surfaces. Less is known about what happens when you curve the surface. How does that affect the whole wrinkling process?” – Pedro Reis, an assistant professor of mechanical engineering and civil and environmental engineering.
“One might expect that a ball with a smooth surface would sail through the air more easily than one with an irregular surface. The reason for the opposite result has to do with the nature of a small layer of the air next to the surface of the ball. The irregular surface, it turns out, holds the airflow close to the ball’s surface longer, delaying the separation of this boundary layer. This reduces the size of the wake — the zone of turbulence behind the ball — which is the primary cause of drag for blunt objects.”
What does it mean if our assumptions about what makes an object aerodynamic are antiquated?
Most of us would assume that a morphing, spherical structure with dimples would be less aerodynamic than a completely smooth surface. But physics tells us otherwise.
Take a look at the morphing surface and wonder what our vehicles may look like in the future. This design makes us question our assumptions about what works and doesn’t, too.
Photo Credit: The researchers and MIT