FROM THE LAB

Focus-Science and Technology - - Tech Hub -

Th­ese de­vices use an elec­tric cur­rent to con­trol air as it passes over a sur­face – in other words, a way to im­prove a ve­hi­cle’s aero­dy­nam­ics. Shaped body pan­els, spoil­ers on the roof of the cab and tails for the trail­ers can im­prove a truck’s aero­dy­nam­ics – and in do­ing so in­crease its fuel ef­fi­ciency and re­duce its run­ning costs – but they add weight and can make it dif­fi­cult to main­tain the ve­hi­cle and load/un­load its cargo. Plasma ac­tu­a­tors can do the same job with­out adding ex­tra weight or in­hibit­ing the truck’s use. The ac­tu­a­tors (made out of a pair of asym­met­ri­cal elec­trodes) are built into the truck’s body­work. When a cur­rent is passed be­tween them a layer of plasma is formed that can be used to ad­just the di­rec­tion and speed of the air flow­ing over it and lower the wind re­sis­tance. They also glow, so trucks driv­ing at night would give off an eerie pur­ple light.

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