Aerodynamics of U.S. Luge Sleds Will Lead to Innovative Vehicle Design

NSF-awarded grant to improve the performance of the aerodynamics of luge sleds used by U.S. athletes in national and international competitions.

NSF-awarded grant to improve the performance of the aerodynamics of luge sleds used by U.S. athletes in national and international competitions.

AeroWorks developed a process that leverages adjoint solutions to optimize the complex aerodynamic features of the luge sled. Image courtesy of Clarkson University.


Clarkson University Mechanical & Aeronautical Engineering Professors Doug Bohl and Brian Helenbrook have been awarded a grant from the National Science Foundation (NSF) to improve the performance of the aerodynamics of luge sleds used by U.S. athletes in national and international competitions, including the Olympic Games. As a collaborator, AeroWorks LLC will spearhead the computational analysis.

AeroWorks developed a process that leverages adjoint solutions to optimize the complex aerodynamic features of the luge sled. The research team will employ the adjoint based optimization to find efficient aerodynamic shapes for the performance desired, such as enhanced lift or reduced drag.

The researchers have a long history of working in Clarkson’s laboratories with the U.S. Luge team that is headquartered in nearby Lake Placid where the aerodynamics are critical to not only winning times but participant safety. The flow conditions in luge sleds are an ideal choice for the investigation of the effectiveness of adjoint based optimization to perform aerodynamic optimization.

The same principles can be applied to other vehicles that need to maneuver and respond to changing conditions. As a result, this study can be applied across other industries to optimize the design of cars/trucks, boat/ships and advanced air vehicles to improve energy savings and performance.  

“American competitiveness in manufacturing and international sport competition have unique synergy for Clarkson faculty researchers when it comes to studies in aerodynamics and drag optimization,” said Tony Collins, president of Clarkson University.  “We truly appreciate the bi-partisan support from our Congressional representatives for research that brings real-world relevance for multiple sectors in the North Country economy.” 

“This project investigates an innovative design methodology that can impact a broad range of important technologies. What makes this project doubly exciting is being able to apply that process to develop and transfer highly-scientifically optimized race technology to USA Luge for them to use in global competitions,” Bohl says.

AeroWorks is a computational fluid dynamics consulting start-up with expertise in external aerodynamic applications for motorsports. Specializing in adjoint based workflows and mesh morphing technology, AeroWorks brings its partners end-to-end solutions to complex problems.

Sources: Press materials received from the company and additional information gleaned from the company’s website.

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