Nov 9th 2015

Sports and Building Aerodynamics (Coursera)

Taught by:

Have we reached the boundaries of what can be achieved in sports and building design? The answer is definitely “NO”. This course explains basic aspects of bluff body aerodynamics, wind tunnel testing and Computational Fluid Dynamics (CFD) simulations with application to sports and building aerodynamics. It is intended for anyone with a strong interest in these topics. Key fields addressed are urban physics, wind engineering and sports engineering.

Can the present outstanding records in cycling team time trials be further improved? Can the present world and Olympic records in athletics disciplines such as the 100 m sprint be advanced? This course provides the answer to these questions. It shows that aerodynamic processes in sports and around buildings are very complex and that many misconceptions exist. These misconceptions are caused by the often counter-intuitive flow physics. Interestingly, the same counter-intuitive flow physics govern the misconceptions in both sports and building aerodynamics. The insights from this course will help you to understand and improve the performance of top athletes and of modern building design.

In 2013, team Orica-Green Edge set the fastest-ever average speed for a Tour de France team time trial, with 57.8 km/h over a distance of 25 km, beating team Omega-Pharma Quick-Step by a mere 0.75 s. At the subsequent 2013 UCI Road World Championships, the latter team beat the former by only 0.88 s. Clearly, even minor aerodynamic improvements can be decisive in these prestigious races. And, surprisingly, up to now, the optimum aerodynamic setting for a team time trial has not yet been explored.

Records in athletics races such as the 100 m sprint, the 110 m hurdles and the long jump are only validated by the IAAF (International Association of Athletics Federations) when the tail wind does not exceed 2 m/s. Most world and Olympic records have been established at tail winds close to 2 m/s. Clearly, local aerodynamic effects can be decisive in establishing new records. Also here, the optimum aerodynamic setting has not yet been explored.

New and prestigious building projects are realized in different parts of the world. Some of them feature the integration of wind energy systems in the building design. Also here, aerodynamic misconceptions can lead to suboptimal performance.

The course starts with a brief recapitulation of the basic aspects of fluid flow: statics, kinematics, dynamics, flow regimes and boundary layers, including the atmospheric boundary layer in which sports and building aerodynamics take place. Next, the main aspects of the aerodynamic analysis techniques of wind tunnel testing and Computational Fluid Dynamics (CFD) simulations are outlined. Tips and tricks for wind tunnel testing and CFD simulations are given. This knowledge provides the basis for the course parts on building aerodynamics, 100 m sprint aerodynamics and cycling aerodynamics, where some surprising and sometimes spectacular results will be shown.