CFD, the tool of the future During the summer, the ING Renault F1 Team announced that it was setting up an Excellence Centre specializing in the study of fluid dynamics (CFD). This slightly hermetic term hides the technology of the future, which will benefit both the new generation of Renault F1 cars, as well as the vehicles bearing the Renault and Nissan Alliance badges.
What is CFD? Computational fluid dynamics is a technology whose development has exploded in Formula 1 in recent years. Thanks to processors and increasingly sophisticated programs, it enables the engineers to simulate, model and give an accurate picture of the interaction between the car and the airflow it creates when in movement. This tool is mainly used in the design of bodywork and aerodynamic elements. But not exclusively, as it enables other parameters like the dynamics of exhaust gases and the oxygen in the engine’s combustion chambers to be studied.
A strategic contribution to F1 and series production vehicles The decision to concentrate on CFD was taken after several months of in-depth reflection by the Enstone technical group. “At the time when more and more of our rivals were investing in a second wind tunnel, we asked ourselves which was the best way to go,” explains Bob Bell. “What was the use of spending tens of millions of dollars on such a project, when a new technology already existed that could help us obtain better results for half the price.” Thus, the Excellence Centre project saw the light of day. The core of the Renault Excellence Centre is a huge computer - probably among the fifty most powerful in the world. This technology, though, is aimed at achieving other objectives and is not an end in itself. The company is going to develop working methods, software, engineering back-up and integration programs that will make this project unique. For several years now, there has been an interchange in the field of aerodynamics between F1 and series production cars. The CFD project has been set up to help the whole Renault group. The unique expertise that Enstone is going to acquire in the CFD field will naturally be applied to all the vehicles emerging from the Renault-Nissan Alliance.
Interaction between CFD and the wind tunnel The CFD technology developed in Enstone will enable these two complementary tools to interact. In Formula 1, CFD was initially seen as a back-up tool to traditional wind tunnel testing. Simulation using scale models was the core development base, and CFD was used to filter ideas before they were tested in the wind tunnel, or to validate the data gathered therein. The new Renault CFD centre is going to modify this approach. Helped by its suppliers/partners’ network the team will be able to push back the limits of this technology, and transform it into a tool capable of simulating real track conditions with a degree of accuracy never before achieved. This will help Renault to push on with an aggressive aerodynamic development program. This technology will give CDF a role well beyond that of its present activity. From the middle of next season onwards, the centre will be up and running. That means that it will probably participate in the final development phase of the 2008 car, but above all it will be used for our 2009 program. To sum up, tomorrow’s already here!
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