What is aerodynamics? The word comes from two Greek words: aerios, concerning the air, and dynamis, which means force. Aerodynamics is the study of forces and the resulting motion of objects through the air. Humans have been interested in aerodynamics and flying for thousands of years, although flying in a heavier-than-air machine has been possible only in the last hundred years. Aerodynamics affects the motion of a large airliner, a model rocket, a beach ball thrown at the beach, or a kite flying overhead. The in swing delivery by a fast bowler in cricket gets its swing from aerodynamics.

Aerodynamics engineers study the way in which air flows around objects. One objective of aerodynamic studies is the design of shapes that offer the least resistance to the flow of air. Air has a resistance to any object moving through it. The shape of an object influences air resistance.

Air resistance is referred to as aerodynamic drag. If a moving object is streamlined, the air will flow around it smoothly and cause less drag, therefore needing less energy to move the object. Such a design is considered to be aerodynamically efficient. When an object produces poor airflow, more energy is required to push it forward.

One goal of the teams who design solar cars is to achieve extremely low aerodynamic drag while still maintaining a suitable surface for the solar cells and adequate space for the driver and the other components. Testing proposed aerodynamic shapes is generally done in one of two ways. The first is to build scale models that are tested in a wind tunnel to simulate airflow across the car. The second is to use a powerful computer program that does the same kind of airflow simulation using a computer-generated model of the car.

View the video below to see a basic view into the aerodynamics of the Formula 1 car explained by Martin Brundle.

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