Friday, October 28, 2011

Exhaust-blown diffusers in 2012?

The 2012 Formula One regulations are intended to prohibit the use of exhaust-blown diffusers: stringent requirements have been placed on the location of the exhaust exit, and a recent announcement from the FIA suggests that engine mapping restrictions will be imposed to eliminate off-throttle pumping of the exhaust jet.

Craig Scarborough has produced a fantastic analysis of the exact restrictions to be placed on the location and orientation of the exhaust exit. In short, these move the exhaust exit to at least 500mm in front of the rear axle line, and 250mm above the reference plane underneath the car. The exhaust exit must also be angled upwards by at least 10 degrees. Hence, it will no longer be possible to blow the exhaust directly between the outer edge of the diffuser and inner face of the rotating rear wheel. Moreover, it will be illegal to place any sprung bodywork in a cone-shaped region, aligned with the exhaust exit, diverging at 3 degrees, and terminating at the rear axle line.

So will this be sufficient to eliminate exhaust-blown diffusers? Well, the first thing to note is that whilst it will be impossible to point the exhaust exit down at the diffuser, this won't necessarily prevent the exhaust jet itself from playing in that direction. When an exhaust jet exits into a cross-stream, the jet almost behaves like a deformable solid, as emphasised by F.L.Parra and K.Kontis in their 2006 paper, Aerodynamic effectiveness of the flow of exhaust gases in a generic formula one car configuration, from which the illustration here is taken.

If the exhaust exit is placed flush in the rearward face of sidepods sweeping downwards at a fairly steep angle, then the freestream airflow could deflect the exhaust jet towards the diffuser. The degree to which the jet is deflected is determined by the ratio between the velocity of the jet and the velocity of the cross-stream flow. The smaller the ratio, the more the jet is deflected.

Hence, there is something of a trade-off necessary here. To allow the exhaust jet to be deflected down towards the diffuser requires a lower exhaust jet velocity, yet for the exhaust jet to be effective in that region, requires higher jet velocities. There may be a compromise solution available here, an optimum exhaust velocity, which permits the jet to be directed towards the outer edge of the diffuser with sufficient velocity to have an effect, but that's something which only CFD and wind-tunnel experimentation will be able to determine...

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