FROM THE LAB
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.