Formula One car design breakthrough on computer

May 5, 1995

Formula One car designers have turned to Exeter University researchers for help in creating their latest track-hugging racing machines.

The Italian Minardi team describes its 200 mph M195 model as the most radical design yet, after a year working in collaboration with Exeter engineering research students Ben Wood and Aaron Berney.

The aerodynamics of the car were developed using a new computer-based design system known as computational fluid dynamics.

But the most radical departure for the research team was the application of new computer design principles developed by engineering lecturer Francis Chiu.

His "boundary element method" for modelling aerodymanics involves the creation of a mesh representing the body of the vehicle rather than the conventional approach of building a grid around it.

"The system is computationally efficient because it involves far fewer variables than the old method. It meant the students could generate a computer model of the car within days of receiving data on the design instead of the months it would take using the conventional system," Dr Chiu said.

The CFD system also enables designers to simulate air flow over and around the car as it negotiates bends or under heavy braking, as well as straight-line performance.

The work has won Mr Wood a year's contract to go to Italy and work for Minardi, who want to investigate further the possibilities offered by the new system. Meanwhile, Dr Chiu is looking at how his system can be applied to the design of powerboats and windsurfers.

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