Future cars could feature golf ball-esque exteriors

Forget the matte finish, go for smorphs...

The aerodynamic benefits of golf ball dimples could soon introduce pockmarked super cars to our streets.

Car salesmen could be offering 'dimpled' as an exterior paint option in the not-so distant future after scientists discovered a new material said to improve the aerodynamic efficiency and fuel economy of modern cars.

Aerodynamic engineers at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MiT) have developed a surface that morphs from super smooth to dimpled at the touch of a button.

The lumps and bumps are said to act like those found on a golf ball, reducing drag and therefore improving aerodynamic efficiency to cut fuel bills and increase top speeds of high performance machines.

Because the dimple-effect only really works at speed, where the recesses hold the airflow closer for longer thus reducing the turbulence behind the moving object, researchers created an innovative surface that can switch from smooth (for low-speed cruising) to dimpled (for ultimate aerodynamic efficiency) at the touch of the button.

The 'smart morphable surfaces', or 'Smorphs' as they are affectionately known, allow the user to control the drag-reducing effect. They also ensure that brand new Ferrari doesn't look like an acne-riddle teenager when it is parked on the high street.

Should future cars opt for the new technology they will join a long list of items already feeling the benefit of pitted exteriors. MiT researchers claim that the Adidas Brazuca World Cup football and tracksuits worn by professional runners already feature textured surfaces that improve airflow.

Pedro Reis, an assistant professor of mechanical engineering and civil and environmental engineering at MiT, said: “That reversibility is why it's interesting; you can switch the drag-reducing effect on and off, and tune it.”

Could this be the reason automotive manufacturers finally opt for the madcap surfaces? We doubt it, but owning a crater-covered car certainly beats wrapping an Audi R8 in leopard print.

We're looking at you, Justin Bieber.

Source: MiT

Leon Poultney

Leon has been writing about automotive and consumer tech for longer than he cares to divulge. When he’s not testing the latest fitness wearable and action camera, he’s out in a shed fawning over his motorcycles or trying not to kill himself on a mountain bike/surfboard/other extreme thing. He's also a man who knows his tools, and he's provided much of T3's drills coverage over the years, all without injuring himself.