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MIT Discovers "Breakthrough of the Decade", Could Affect Everything From Cars to Golf
Written by Daniel   
Friday, 26 September 2008 12:01
New insight into fluid behavior may allow for better fuel economy, better golf balls
Jason Mick (Blog) - September 26, 2008 10:21 AM

Fluids -- liquids and gases -- are such an integral part of our everyday lives that we often don't even give them a second thought.  However, for engineers, the behavior of fluids bears great importance.  Fluid flow affects everything from the miles per gallon we get in our car, to how well a golf ball flies through the air.

Now a key breakthrough in understanding of fluid modeling has been achieved.  For years the key equation in the world of fluid mechanics was the Prandtl equation, developed by Ludwig Prandtl, which described how air and water flowed over objects.  Despite its brilliance in 1904 when it was conceived, it had serious limitations -- it only worked for steady flow, such as a car traveling at low speeds, and it only applied to idealized 2 dimensional problems.  For decades researchers tried to improve the equation to little avail.

Solutions obtained often diverged greatly from real world mechanics.  For example, the air flow around a car making a hairpin turn, would often fall off, unable to keep up -- something the Prandtl equation could not explain.

This was a sizable problem as optimizing fuel flow is extremely important to many applications.  One perfect example is Speedo's quest for the perfect swimsuit, which was showcased in its new designs which made their official mark on the Beijing Olympics.  Another example is in car aerodynamics.  Cars are sculpted to try to make airflow less unsteady.  In an optimal scenario air would just glide across the car's surface and reform into a steady stream.  In the real world air flows off the car in a turbulent stream akin to a boat wake, and separates from the surface as it passes over the car.  By minimizing these effects, fuel economy can be improved.  [Dailytech...]    [Comments...]

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