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LLNL helps increase semi-truck fuel efficiency

Narrator:       The world's largest wind tunnel at the NASA Ames Research Center in Mountain View, California was the setting for full-scale testing of new devices to reduce the aerodynamic drag of semi-trucks. The Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory is partnering with trucking company Navistar, NASA Ames, the U.S. Air Force and industry to develop and test these devices that could increase fuel efficiency by 12 percent.

George Miller, LLNL Director:       To some of you, 12 percent may not sound like very much. On the other hand, 12 percent is 3.4 billion gallons of diesel fuel — equivalent to about 10 billion dollars saved every year. And it's also the equivalent of 36 million tons of CO2 going into the world's atmosphere.

Narrator:       Some of the lab's largest computer platforms and most advanced computational fluid dynamics codes were used to identify critical drag producing regions around semi-trucks.

Kambiz Salari, LLNL Fluid dynamics researcher: Our role is basically to understand the technology and we do that typically by doing a lot of computational work to understand the flow physics around the vehicle and then, given that knowledge, we design devices that reduce aerodynamic drag.

(Salari/on-camera demo: If you think of, as a vehicle moves, the air behind the trailer is mixing and there is turbulence. And what this does is tries to make that area smaller...and by doing that, it improves the aerodynamics, reduces drag.

Narrator:       The Livermore lab, along with Navistar, are partnering to get prototypes of these drag reduction devices out on the road for further performance evaluations. For Science Today, I'm Larissa Branin.