In August 2008 the ING Renault F1 Team will formally open a new Computational Fluid Dynamics (CFD) centre at its technical centre in Enstone. Those three letters represent the future when it comes to Formula 1 - as well as having direct relevance to road cars, and the world at large. Here’s why…
CFD and Formula 1
Commonly referred to as a ‘wind tunnel in a computer’, CFD is a technology enjoying rapid growth thanks to the exponential development of computing capacity. Using enormous computing capacity and sophisticated software, it allows engineers to model and simulate the interaction between an object and the surrounding fluid. In F1 terms, that primarily means aerodynamics, and how the car manages airflow around its surface to generate down-force. But it can also be applied to areas such as modeling gas flow through the exhausts, or simulating combustion within the engine: “CFD gives us access to a huge range of information,” explains Technical Director Bob Bell. “Where wind tunnel testing allows us to measure forces on the car, CFD opens up much more detailed information about airflow around the car, and even allows us to simulate how parts of the car deform under load. It’s the way of the future.”
A cutting-edge resource In recent years, the trend in Formula 1 has been towards expensive second wind tunnels, requiring significant capital expenditure – and whose limits are already well-known.
Currently, CFD is viewed as an ‘answer tool’ in F1 circles, used to confirm or predict the results of solid-state model testing. The new Renault F1 Team CFD Centre aims to transform the technology into an ‘ideas tool’. “As we saw our rivals investing in second wind tunnels, we asked ourselves: why spend millions in that area, when an investment in new technology could bring us better results at half the cost?” explains Bob Bell. The new facility will allow the team to exploit the new rules limiting CFD usage to their maximum, and will rank among the top 100 global computing facilities. What’s more, its potential to contribute to future road car development prevents any potential redundancy that might be incurred under rules changes in the year ahead.
The CFD centre will primarily be used to run simulations using CD-adapco’s industry leading CFD tools STAR-CCM+ and STAR-CD. CD-adapco is the exclusive provider of CFD software to the ING Renault F1 Team, and has been a partner of the Team since its inception. STAR-CD and STAR-CCM+ have been used extensively in the design of all the Team’s cars including the R28 and the World Championship winning R25 and R26. The R28 carries the CD-adapco logo on both sides of the rear attenuator.
The road cars of tomorrow
The $50 million investment in future technology represents a firm sign of Renault’s commitment to a competitive future in Formula 1. But the new CFD Centre symbolizes much more for the Renault- Nissan Alliance. “We will be working on the cutting-edge of technology in this new facility,” elaborates Bell. “This will allow us to develop CFD techniques superior to those available in the marketplace, which will then be available to the Renault-Nissan Alliance. Formula 1 will make a concrete contribution to helping develop the road cars of tomorrow.” Improved CFD techniques and processes can make a decisive contribution to developing more efficient, environmentally-friendly vehicles and power trains in the years to come. Furthermore, the size of the facility will provide the Alliance with a permanent, additional CFD resource for road car development.
A society-relevant technology
The potential applications of CFD stretch far beyond Formula 1, or even the automotive industry. CFD has been applied to product design fields as diverse as jumbo jet and heart valves, and its applications continue to expand as development of the technology accelerates. For example, a recent CFD project conducted jointly by Renault F1 Team and Boeing could potentially lead to a 2% to 3% drag reduction on transonic aircraft in coming years. Formula 1 has a proven capacity to adopt new technologies and drive their development, for use both within the automotive industry and beyond. “This approach is much more society-relevant than constructing additional wind tunnels,” concludes Bob Bell. “This is something that the FIA is very keen on Formula 1 doing, using its technological leadership to derive benefits for society at large. Here is a perfect example of how we are doing that.”
In harmony with the environment
Cutting-edge technology is not just housed within the building: the new CFD Centre embodies the latest standards in construction and environmental responsibility. The Centre has been sited below ground level to minimize its impact on the Sites of Special Scientific Interest located around the Enstone site. Its modular construction has contributed to an exceptionally rapid construction phase. Furthermore, the facility will be powered by renewable energy, in line with the entire site. Environmental priorities form an on-going development path for the team, and the team achieved the Kyoto target of a 12.5% reduction in emissions in 2005. The new facility is due to come on-stream during the second half of 2008, allowing it to make a contribution to the final development phase of the R28 – and to play a key role in the 2009 design and development programme.
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