Golf Ball-Inspired Morphable Surfaces Could Improve Efficiency of Vehicles


A golf ball's irregular surface dramatically increases the distance it travels, because it can cut the drag caused by air resistance in half. Now researchers at MIT are aiming to harness that same effect to reduce drag on a variety of surfaces. The researchers made this sphere to test their concept of morphable surfaces. Made of soft polymer with a hollow center, and a thin coating of a stiffer polymer, the sphere becomes dimpled when the air is pumped out of the hollow center, causing it to shrink. The ability to alter a surface could prove useful for radar antennas, which are housed in spherical domes that can collapse catastrophically in very high winds. Another application could be the exterior of automobiles, where the ability to adjust the texture of panels to minimize drag at different speeds could increase fuel efficiency.