Will Cars of the Future be Dimpled like Golf Balls? [w/video]
Aesthetically, we hope not. There’s nothing remotely attractive about a pockmarked hot hatchback. But new technology pioneered by aerodynamic experts at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology could bring the drag-resistant genius of the dimpled golf ball to the modern car. Scientists at MIT have developed new morphable material that has the ability to mimic both a smooth surface and a textured surface akin to that of a golf ball, dubbed “smart morphable surfaces,” or ‘smorphs’ for short. The material features a soft inner layer covered by a stiff outer skin, which when pressure is lowered internally, the outer layer shrinks to create a dimpled surface.
VIDEO: Watch F1 driver David Coulthard catch a 178mph golf ball in a Mercedes SLS
The scientific reasoning behind smorphs has helped golf balls travel farther since the 19th century. In golf, the irregular surface of the ball greatly reduces air turbulence behind it while in motion by creating tiny air pockets to hold airflow closer to its surface for longer. This drastically cuts wind resistance and – voila – you can drive your ball further down the green.
Given its shape-shifting properties, this same pitted concept could increase the aerodynamic efficiency of modern cars. At lower speeds, a dimpled texture increases efficiency, but at higher speeds the advantage is negated. According to MIT assistant professor Pedro Reis, “That reversibility is why this is pretty interesting; you can switch the drag-reducing effect on and off, and tune it.”
Efficient? Yes, if not a bit creepy.
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