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Sports ball aerodynamics: A numerical study of the erratic motion of soccer balls

By S. Barber, S.B. Chin and M.J. Carré


The application of the commercial CFD code, FLUENT, to sports ball aerodynamics was assessed and a validated 3D analysis technique was established for balls that have been scanned with a 3D laser scanner or drawn in CAD. The technique was used to examine the effects of surface geometry on the aerodynamic behaviour of soccer balls by comparing the flow around different balls and predicting the aerodynamic force coefficients. The validation process included performing CFD studies on 3D smooth spheres and various soccer balls, and comparing the results to wind tunnel tests and flow visualisation. The CFD technique used a surface wrapping meshing method and the Reynolds Averaged Navier-Stokes approach with the realizable k-ε turbulence model, which was found to be able to predict the drag, lift and side force coefficients (C<sub>D</sub>, C<sub>L</sub> and C<sub>S</sub>) reliably, to compare the wake behaviour, and to give good pressure distributions near the stagnation point. The main limitations of the technique with the available computational resources were its inability to accurately predict boundary layer transition or growth, but despite this, several conclusions could be drawn regarding soccer ball aerodynamics. C<sub>D</sub> was not significantly different between balls. C<sub>L</sub> and C<sub>S</sub> were found to be significantly affected by the orientation of the ball relative to its direction of travel, meaning that balls kicked with low amounts of spin could experience quasi-steady lift and side forces and move erratically from side-to-side or up and down through the air. For different balls, C<sub>D</sub>, C<sub>L</sub> and C<sub>S</sub> were predicted and their variation with orientation entered into a modified trajectory simulation program. The erratic nature of this type of kick was found to vary with details of the surface geometry including seam size, panel symmetry, number, frequency and pattern, as well as the velocity and spin applied to the ball by the player. Exploitation of this phenomenon by players and ball designers could have a significant impact on the game. © 2008 Elsevier Ltd. All rights reserved

Publisher: Elsevier
Year: 2009
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