"It's a monster, in more ways than one," says Crew Chief Mike Kloeber, referring to the huge wing cantilevered over the rear of a top fuel dragster. The sole function of this behemoth is to generate thousands of pounds of downforce, keeping the vehicle's tires firmly planted on the track while it hurtles along at speeds of more than 300 mph. "The problem is that if we lose the wing (not uncommon when a tire blows), then Newton's Law takes over and the rest is history," he says. Looking to improve safety, Kloeber surmised that the addition of a sidepod would reduce the reliance on the wing, and potentially cut down on aerodynamic drag. (Common on Formula 1 and Indy cars, a sidepod causes the airflow under the vehicle to speed up, creating a low-pressure region that, in effect, sucks the vehicle to the ground.) By moving the center of pressure closer to the front of the car, Kloeber figured the sidepod would improve vehicle stability and absorb energy in a side-impact crash. First, though, he had to find a way to test his theory out—no small feat, given that IHRA teams don't typically have big budgets for research and analysis compared to other leagues. "There's a lot of seat-of-the-pants engineering going on," admits Kloeber. Fortunately, John Moloney with ARC, a division of Penske Racing, helped get Kloeber in touch with a U.K. company called Advantage CFD, which has done significant analysis work for other racing teams. Advantage evaluated several different sidepod geometries and other aerodynamic enhancements, including an exhaust shroud and gurney flap. Results confirmed Kloeber's hunch—that enough downforce could be created by a large sidepod wing to allow a redesign of the rear wing. Kloeber won't say exactly what changes he is making, but he plans to unveil a concept dragster in June. Next up: He will present his study results to the IHRA sanctioning bodies in the hopes of convincing them to change the design rules and make dragster racing safer at any speed. For details on Kloeber's CFD analysis, go to http://rbi.ims.ca/3849-532.
More often than not, with the purchase of a sports car comes the sacrifice of any sort of utility. In other words, you can forget about a large trunk, extra seats for the kids, and more importantly driving in snowy (or inclement) weather. But what if there was a vehicle that offered the best of both worlds; great handling and practicality?
Science fiction author Isaac Asimov may have the best rules for effective brainstorming and creativity. His never-before-published essay, "On Creativity," recently made it to the Web pages of MIT Technology Review.
Much has been made over the potentially dangerous flammability of lithium-ion batteries after major companies like Boeing, Sony, and Tesla have grappled with well-publicized battery fires. Researchers at Stanford University may have come up with a solution to this problem with a smart sensor for lithium-ion batteries that provides a warning if the battery is about to overheat or catch fire.
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