Reshaping the Wake to Decrease Drag

When it comes to the aerodynamics of cars, there’s only so much streamlining one can do. In the end, most cars have a certain boxy-ness as a matter of practicality; they do, after all, have to carry people and things. But that doesn’t mean we’re stuck with the level of drag those shapes entail.

For cars and other non-streamlined objects, much of their drag comes from their wake, which usually contains a large, asymmetric, and unsteady recirculation region. In a new wind tunnel study, scientists used air blasts to reshape this wake, making it more symmetrical, even when the wind direction did not align with the car model. That reduced the drag by 6%. They’re now experimenting with adding additional nozzles along the non-windward edges of the model to see if they can reduce drag even further.

Although this appears to be the first time this technique has been tested for road vehicles, the idea of blowing air to improve aerodynamics is well-established, particularly in aviation. (Image credit: V. Malagoli; research credit: R. Li et al., submitted by Marc A.)

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