Washington, November 24 : A team of researchers from Arizona State University and the University of Maryland is using a supercomputer to study how air flows around a ball in flight, and how this flow is influenced by the ball's dimples, with a view to making a better golf ball that fly can farther.
Presenting their work at the 61st Meeting of the American Physical Society's Division of Fluid Dynamics in San Antonio on Sunday, the researchers said that a better golf ball could be made by optimising the size and pattern of such dimples, and lowering the drag golf balls encounter as they fly through the air.
"For a golf ball, drag reduction means that the ball flies farther," says ASU's Ph.D. student Clinton Smith.
It is well known that dimples improve the flight of a golf ball, and that dimpled balls experience about half the drag as those without dimples.
To date, dimple design has been more of an art than a science, with sporting goods companies designing their patterns by simple trial and error, testing prototype after prototype against one another.
Smith said that his team's study took a different approach, asking how to design dimple size and pattern based on mathematical equations that model the physics of a golf ball in flight.
He said that the team had thus far characterized air flow around a golf ball at the finest level of detail ever attempted, teasing out the drag at each exact location and showing how air flows in an out of each tiny dimple on a golf ball's surface as it spins through the air during flight.
He also said that the team had produced a model that could reveal the physics of a flying golf ball with the greatest level of detail ever seen -- the first step in achieving the project's long-term goal of optimising dimple design to realize the lowest drag possible.
Smith said that the team's next step would be to extend the work by comparing different dimple designs.
He admitted that new designs were still years away.