|A recent post on Wayne Hale’s Blog pointed me to NASA’s Technology Spinoff site.
The current edition is located here
Now you too know where the answers to all those questions about the value of space exploration resides.
Credit: NASA Image
The Spinoff site features summaries of past issues. One of these is about NASA research into aerodynamic drag and its application to the Trucking Industry. Rounding the horizontal and vertical edges of the traditional cab-over design, closing the gap between the cab and the trailer, and adding a faired underbody yielded large reductions in drag. “Assuming annual mileage of 100,000 driven by an independent trucker, these drag reductions would translate to fuel savings of as much as 6,829 gallons per year.”
Initial testing began in 1973 with a retired delivery van. Engineers attached metal sheeting to create a box with all 90 degree angles. This was the baseline shape used for the drag measurements. Rounding the front vertical edges, then the top and bottom edges gave a 52% reduction in drag. Sealing the underbody yielded another 7%. Total fuel savings on the highway was estimated at from 15% to 25%.
Between 1990 and 1991, additional vortex-generator research was conducted. Both active and passive methods for controlling two-dimensional separated flow were examined.
NASA makes its research results available to the business community, and Aeroserve Technologies Ltd., of Ottawa, Canada, with its marketing arm, Airtab LLC, in Loveland, Colorado, have created commercial applications that reduce aerodynamic drag and increase fuel efficiency.
Interestingly, the traditional cab-over-engine design (COE) was developed in response to laws limiting the maximum length of cab and trailer to 55 feet. NASA engineering showed that there were savings available if the limit was placed on trailers and not on the cab. In 1982, the limits for trailers were changed to 48 feet. Prior to this, 65% of all cabs were COE designs. As of 2004, only 1% of designs on the road are COE. With the engine out front of the cab, additional aerodynamic drag reduction has become possible.
Other 2008 Spinoff articles include:
- Wireless Fluid-Level Measurement System Equips Boat Owners where “…a key safety feature unique to the system is that it allows the sensors to be completely encapsulated so that the fuel level can be measured with neither the fuel nor fuel vapors coming in contact with any electrical components of the system, thus eliminating the potential for combustible fuel vapors being ignited by arcing from damaged electrical components”.
- Polymer Fabric Protects Firefighters, Military, and Civilians. Beginning in the late 1950’s, Polybenzimidazole (PBI) was first synthesized by Dr. Carl Marvel while studying the creation of high-temperature stable polymers for the U.S. Air Force. Subsequent applications over the succeeding decades have been to protect astronauts and firefighters, and new applications are in development for carbon sequestation and hydrogen fuel cells.
- Lithium Battery Power Delivers Electric Vehicles to Market
- Space Suit Technologies Protect Deep-Sea Divers
- Space Age Swimsuit Reduces Drag, Breaks Records
Since 1976, Spinoff has featured between 40 and 50 of these commercial products annually. Spinoff maintains a searchable database of every technology published since its inception.