MIT researchers have developed a new material than can morph its surface into golf ball-like dimples to reduce air resistance. Golf enthusiasts claim that the dimpled surface of a golf ball helps it travel farther. Many researchers have tested this hypothesis and have proven it to be true. Further studies have come to the conclusion that at lower speeds the dimples on a golf ball help reduce the drag by half but at faster speeds the drag increases by the same amount. Armed with this knowledge, MIT researchers Denis Terwagne and Miha Brojan thought of designing a surface that can be altered to be smooth or dimpled depending on the situation.
They took their inspiration from the natural phenomena that caused smooth plums to develop a wrinkly surface when they dry. They designed a multilayer material with a stiff skin and a soft interior and shaped it into a hollow ball. While they haven’t specified the materials they used, they say that it was a rubber-like material. Once the ball was ready, they extracted air from the hollow interior and which made the ball shrink and its surface wrinkly. The team at MIT claims that this surface shrinkage has the same aerodynamic properties of dimpled golf balls. The best part about their design was that they can control the surface topography at will by which they can tune the drag reducing effect of any surface.
The team has listed a couple of ways their invention could benefit the mankind. Starting with, strengthening the spherical domes that protect radar antennas. Normally these spherical domes are susceptible to high winds but if the dome can alter its surface with the help of their material it can easily reduce drag and withstand winds. They also predict that car manufacturers can design their panels with the smart morphable surfaces which can alter themselves to reduce or increase drag depending on the situation.
To know more about this development, you can head over to the MIT News website and its coverage on Engadget.