#282: Aeropimples

Golfballs travel further because they have a dimpled surface which creates turbulence in the air nearest the surface. This, in turn makes for a much narrower wake, a reduced pressure difference between front and back faces and thus a decrease in drag force.

All of this is good for golfers but it might actually be useful in other contexts. For a blunt shaped, slow moving vehicle, for example (say 10km per hour), it can be shown that the drag cofficient is halved by adding dimples to the surface.


This means that, for future versions of urban bubble cars and delivery vans, a big saving in fuel economy can be achieved just by a small change to the surface geometry. The dimples might actually work just as well by protruding outwards and would certainly be easier to manufacture by attaching small hemispheres to a bodyshell -aeropimples.

If anyone ever decides to return to the use of powered balloon flight for freight transport, this invention may become significant.

This doesn’t apply, of course, to high-speed, aerodynamic vehicles. The Spitfire was marginally slowed by the decision to use domehead rivets on certain of its surfaces.

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