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Bugatti presents a world-first innovation, the dimpled airscoop, to be used for the Bolide, its race track-focused hypercar.

17 Dec 2020 | International News : France

Bugatti recently presented the extreme technological concept, the Bugatti Bolide. The Bolide is developed around Bugatti's 8.0-litre quad-turbocharged W16 engine, with 1,824bhp and 1,850Nm of torque and a weight of 1,240kg, with top speed over 500km/h.

The Bolide is packed full of technological innovations, chief among which is the Dimple Airscoop - a new technology for which Nils Ballerstein submitted a patent application a few weeks ago.

A sketch showing how the airflow is like over the Bolide's airscoop with a smooth surface and a dimpled surface
Since the beginning of 2020, Ballerstein has been preparing a doctoral thesis project to develop a special morphable outer skin for the New Technologies department at Bugatti. This has now been used for the first time in the Bugatti Bolide.

The idea for the invention began in 2019, when Ballerstein was undertaking research for Bugatti, looking at new 3D-printed brake calipers made of titanium that cooled water as it flowed through. In order to improve the heat transfer and dissipate heat more selectively, he used a dimple pattern inside the channels.

The rounded dents in the boundary layer produce turbulence - similar to a golf ball. The result was that the fluid mixes better in the channels, and the temperature in the brake caliper drops. "I was positively surprised when I saw the results with the surface patterns. I then wondered whether the same effect couldn't be achieved with air flow," says Ballerstein.

Nils Ballerstein simulated test objects with dimple patterns in order to establish a factual basis to underpin his idea, as he sees the Bolide project as a perfect way to advance his idea. The morphable outer skin of the intake scoop on the roof is a world first, and ensures active airflow optimisation. When the vehicle is driven at a slow speed, the surface of the scoop remains smooth, but at fast speeds a field of dimples bulges out.

The dimpled skin on the Bolide's airscoop helps to reduce drag at higher speeds
The 60 individual elements extend variably by up to 10mm depending on the speed. From about 80km/h onwards, air is the dominant resistance factor, and from about 120km/h upwards the dimples significantly improve the car's aerodynamics by reducing this resistance.

As with a golf ball, the pattern causes a more turbulent boundary layer, which means that the air flowing around it adheres to the surface for longer and does not detach until later. As a result, the detachment and recirculation areas are reduced and the car's drag coefficient value decreases.

In order to respond swiftly to changes in speed, the dimples extend and retract very quickly, within tenths of a second, in the same way as the active rear wing on the Veyron and the Chiron, for example.

The overall result is that the dimples reduce the aerodynamic drag of the scoop by 10% and cause a 17% decrease in lift. Airflow to the rear wing is also optimised. At 320km/h, the downforce on the rear wing is 1,800kg, while on the front wing it is 800kg. Another benefit is that the lower aerodynamic drag also reduces the vehicle's fuel or energy consumption.

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