There are 3.41 million class 8 trucks in the US, traveling 169 billion miles every year. Reducing fuel consumption by 5% represents a huge saving. Swedish researchers are working on a novel way of doing just that.
Researchers at the KTH Royal Institute of Technology in Sweden are using electric wind or plasma to control the flow of wind over trucks to make them more aerodynamic.US trucks carry 70% of all US freight,a massive 10 billion tons of freight per year. Click To Tweet
The aerodynamic drag occurs when air separates from the moving object on the rear. This creates a “hole” which sucks in air and exerts a rearward force on the body which is trying to move forward. (Think of trying to overcome the suction when you pull a cork from a wine bottle.)
Similarly, a relative vacuum exerts a drag on the truck on the rear and sides. The KTH researchers are using an electrically generated wind to flow air in to fill this gap.
Lead researcher Julie Vernet explains:
The electric wind is created by plasma actuators, devices that apply a high voltage between two electrodes. Surrounding air molecules become ionized and accelerate through the electric field – which results in wind. There are no moving mechanical parts, and unlike vortex generators [wing tips] on an airplane wing, these actuators can adapt to the strength and direction of the wind.
While you can streamline a truck for moving forward through the air, the wind can strike at any angle, causing drag. Unlike the fixed body of the truck, the electric wind can change to optimize the airflow over the truck even if it is coming from the side. The video below explains how it works.
- Plasma Could Cut Wind Resistance for Trucks, KTH Royal Institute of Technology
- American Trucking Associations