Bending the Limits Part 1

If one wants to boost the performance of their vehicle, improving the aerodynamics is a very good way to do it. However, people who are not well known with the principles of aerodynamics don’t know that, even if they don’t wish to alternate the initial shape of their car, they are still able to improve their performance without alternating the shape of their car.

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Without going too much into the details, when a car moves forward (or backwards), the air has to flow around the car so that the car can move through. This causes viscous friction between the car and the air which causes a force working against the movement of the car, thus slowing it down. This friction force is dependent on the surface the air is flowing over and therefore you can improve this drag force by alternating the surface.

In general, a rough surface is considered to be bad for the performance. However, there are some exceptions. If bio-mimicry has taught me anything, it is that looking at nature often has a lot of answers to a lot of the nowadays questions. Just by looking at animals who have to live in similar conditions, on might find how these animals deal with such problems. The one that have gotten a lot of attention lately are sharks. Sharkskin has a special pattern that improves the flow around them, meaning they have to use less energy to move around.

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These days, this pattern is also adapted  to swimsuits of competitive swimmers in order to boost their performance. So in theory, this should also be applicable to cars. These days, a few are experimenting with applying this technique on vehicles and are getting good results. This way, a relatively simple coating could easily reduce the drag forces working upon cars and make them more efficient. So within a few years, you might be able to buy one of these with a coating already on it.

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4 thoughts on “Bending the Limits Part 1

    • It can be both. 2 weeks ago at the JEC fair in Paris, there was a car present with a roof and hood made of polymers that had the pattern worked into the structure itself. So basically, the pattern had been milled into the mold so that the product would come out with the pattern already in place. However, a number of experiments to apply this as a paint have been conducted as well the past few years, but these paints resemble more of a riblet-structure rather then sharkskin. The man who had designed the car stated that windtunnel experiments had proven that it had decreased the amount of drag on his car, but didn’t give any exact numbers. As for the paint, the main reason it isn’t in use at the moment, according to a number of sources, is a lack of durability.

  1. Aerodynamics indeed is one of the main focusses to improve fuel efficiency nowadays. It is a shame that some constructors still are launching models that obviously have poor aerodynamic properties and are wasting precious fuel for the same application. Also the patterns are a very nice improvement to this, all helping those extra percentages of improvement.

    • It really is a shame indeed. I came across an article about an electric vehicle that is released in the region of Korea that has really nice features, but is an aerodynamical nightmare. Even the discussed shark skin technology would only be a slight improvement compared to other aspects. More info will follow in my next blogpost.

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