Utilizing the Magnus effect to produce more downforce than a standard wing

(1) Shrewsbury High School, Shrewsbury, Massachusetts, (2) Oak Middle School, Shrewsbury, Massachusetts

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Wings on cars help keep the vehicle grounded at high speeds and improve traction by producing downward force known as downforce. To generate more downforce, the wings generally need a high angle of attack which leads to increased drag. A car’s performance is degraded with drag by the increase in air resistance, so a new method of generating downforce with better drag performance could be beneficial. The Magnus effect is the tendency of a spinning cylinder or sphere to produce force perpendicular to the flow of the air. Cylinders undergoing the Magnus effect have been found to have less drag than comparable wings and can generate lift and downforce with sufficient airflow. Thus, we saw it fit to test if a spinning cylinder was capable of generating more downforce than a typical wing via the Magnus effect. Based on the success of the Magnus effect for lift, we hypothesized similar outcomes when testing for downforce. We tested for downforce by attaching a motor-driven cylinder to a scale and used a leaf blower to simulate high wind speeds. We also tested a standard wing as a control. Overall, we found that at all speeds, the cylinder was significantly more effective at producing downforce with nearly 50% more force produced at the highest velocity while outperforming the wing by larger margins at lower speeds. Our experiments demonstrated that cylinders could be a potential replacement for the wing when downforce is a priority.

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