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On-Site Characterization of Automotive Diffuser Aerodynamics by 3D LPT

Andrea Battegazzore, Adrian Grille Guerra, Andrea Sciacchitano

Delft University of Technology, Delft, The Netherlands


This investigation proposes a novel LPT facility featuring Helium-Filled Soap Bubbles flow tracers, LED illumination and two high-speed cameras to characterize the dominating flow patterns within automotive underbodies. A remote control (RC) car model, fitted with custom-made floor and diffusers, traverses a region of seeded air following the Ring of Fire methodology. Underground-placed cameras view the car through a transparent panel, providing unparalleled optical access to the underbody of the car. The on-site measurement setup and the interaction between car model and ground enhance the realism and fidelity of the experiments, while potentially reducing testing costs associated with wind tunnel operation. The setup is shown to be a valid alternative to conventional testing approaches to capture flow separation, 3D flow evolution and differences in the flow field between the four tested configurations, whereby the diffuser angle was varied in the range between 5° and 20°. The 15° diffuser led to the largest velocity and pressure peaks under the car, whereas the 10° diffuser produced the most downforce thanks to the diffuser “pumping” effect, leading to a large region of low pressure under the vehicle. Notably, the 20° diffuser featured the most prominent flow separation at the diffuser’s leading edge, heavily affecting its ability to sustain low pressures under the car. The results show that the wide tyres have a major impact on the underbody flow, because their large wakes induce mass flow leakage through the sides of the car, thus disrupting the mechanism of downforce generation and impairing the generation of streamwise vortices.

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