Dimples Are Cute, But Can They Also Save Fuel?

This article was written by Oilprice.com -- the leading provider of energy news in the world. Also check out this recent article:

Golf balls aren't dimpled for mere cosmetic reasons. The pattern of tiny divots actually reduces drag by cutting air resistance in half.

But no matter how powerful your swing, there's only so hard you can hit a golf ball, and just so fast you can make it fly. In fact, a golf ball actually can go too fast to take advantage of its dimples because at high speeds, the dimples' effect reverses.

So researchers at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology have been looking at ways to give dimples to objects that are exposed to air resistance. This would be a valuable fuel-saver for vehicles, which create their own wind, or stationary structures such as flexible domes that can be brought down by high winds.

Their challenge was to have the dimples present at lower speeds and to smooth them out at will at higher speeds. And it appears they've succeeded, according a paper on their work published in the journal Advanced Materials.

The MIT team used a multilayer material that's stiff outside and soft inside. The researchers used a malleable material similar to rubber to create a soft ball with a stiff skin, and then sucked the air from the interior, causing the ball to shrink and its outer layer to wrinkle. And because the surface is curved, the wrinkles are dimple-shaped.

But why wouldn't a smooth surface lead to less drag and a dimpled surface lead to more drag? The MIT researchers discovered that the irregular surface holds on to a very thin "boundary" layer of air that, at lower speeds, reduces turbulence, or wake, behind the ball. The greater the wake, the more drag.
By adjusting the interior pressure of the ball, the surface texture, and therefore the drag, can be controlled at will. The MIT team calls these changeable surfaces "smart morphable surfaces," or just "smorphs."

Reis says this pun is intended. The lead author of the research paper, Denis Terwagne, is a fan of Belgian comics, including Smurfs, the Belgian comic and cartoon characters.

Reis notes that, according to Smurf lore, the blue characters never develop wrinkles, no matter how old they get.

Do you know this energy tax "loophole"?
You already know record oil and natural gas production is changing the lives of millions of Americans. But what you probably haven't heard is that the IRS is encouraging investors to support our growing energy renaissance, offering you a tax loophole to invest in some of America's greatest energy companies. Take advantage of this profitable opportunity by grabbing your brand-new special report, "The IRS Is Daring You to Make This Investment Now!," and you'll learn about the simple strategy to take advantage of a little-known IRS rule. Don't miss out on advice that could help you cut taxes for decades to come. Click here to learn more.

 


Read/Post Comments (0) | Recommend This Article (0)

Comments from our Foolish Readers

Help us keep this a respectfully Foolish area! This is a place for our readers to discuss, debate, and learn more about the Foolish investing topic you read about above. Help us keep it clean and safe. If you believe a comment is abusive or otherwise violates our Fool's Rules, please report it via the Report this Comment Report this Comment icon found on every comment.

Be the first one to comment on this article.

Sponsored Links

Leaked: Apple's Next Smart Device
(Warning, it may shock you)
The secret is out... experts are predicting 458 million of these types of devices will be sold per year. 1 hyper-growth company stands to rake in maximum profit - and it's NOT Apple. Show me Apple's new smart gizmo!

DocumentId: 3010756, ~/Articles/ArticleHandler.aspx, 11/27/2014 8:41:10 PM

Report This Comment

Use this area to report a comment that you believe is in violation of the community guidelines. Our team will review the entry and take any appropriate action.

Sending report...


Advertisement