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Thursday, 10 July 2014

The Greatest Aerodynamic Shape Created By Man

   We know very well how overcoming wind resistance is to modern day transportation. A not so aerodynamic shape costs us speed, fuel and in some cases effort, if the vehicle is propelled without the use of an engine.

Massive research campaigns, hundreds of scientists and mechanics and millions of dollars have been laboured with the task to create the ultimate aerodynamic shape.

Wind tunnels and complex computer-aided calculations have benefited the automotive industry for years to create some of the most powerful and efficient vehicles in the world.

The F1 Championship is the top of the chain in vehicular construction and development.

All this said, the question of aerodynamics still lies unanswered. While we do become a lot better and versed in this field, we've yet to completely break free of wind resistance.

All that said, the best aerodynamic shape in existence is credited to no science, no engineering technique, no computer calculation and no technology, but art. Bicycles have gone a long way since their first prototypes around the end of the 18th century.

They are no longer viewed only as method of transportation, but exercise tools and even extreme sports medium. People are now racing almost any condition on the pedal powered contraption.

Georgi Georgiev is a Bulgarian born artist and sculptor. He moved to Canada, after graduating the Belgrade Academy of Art and has been living and working there ever since.

Georgi Georgiev
In the 1970's he became increasingly interested in human powered vehicles (e.g. bicycle, skateboard, scooter) and sought to use his artistic talents and observations of nature to create and improve on them.

He drew inspiration of the forms of nature and examined how they stood up against resistance from various liquids and gasses. These observations later gave him the base of creating very efficient and very comfortable vehicles.

After his friend went through an accident and was left in a wheelchair, Georgi decided to apply his knowledge and understanding into helping the disabled regain at least part of their manoeuvrability and agility. Thus, the Varna Innovation and Research Corporation was founded.

And, while Corporation is 20% of his company's name, Georgi has denied any corporate sponsorship for his work and products.

In 2008, armed with his newest vehicle the Varna Diablo 3 and a Canadian ex-bicycle racer - Sam Wittingam, Georgi took to Route 306 in the Nevada dessert. That road is the longest, most straight and most levelled strip of asphalt in the United States and it's been hosting speed races for many years.

Georgi (left) and Sam

Such a race is the Battle Mountain, Human-Powered Vehicle Speed Challenge, where teams from various parts of the world have been racing with specially built bicycles to break the world speed record with one human power of force.

That same year, Sam Wittingam broke the world speed record at 132 kilometres per hour and became the first human ever to reach a tenth of the speed of sound through his own strength.

The next year, an improved version of the Varna vehicle allowed him to break his own record at 133 kph. Along with him, a French female cyclist - Barbara Butois broke the female top speed at 121 kph.

The design is entirely the work of the Bulgarian sculptor and features a recumbent type of bicycle, encompassed with an aerodynamic shell made out of carbon fibre and kevlar. The materials allow for the best structural integrity, while keeping the entire vehicle as low as possible. The total weight, without the pilot is 30 kilograms, which is usually pretty heavy for a bicycle, but that mass also retains much of the moementum for longer time.

What's special about the vehicles entering the race is they are completely sealed and no air is allowed to enter the shell. After the pilot enters the vehicle, the hull is sealed with a strong tape that closes even the tiny crevice of the parts touching. It's only removed after the run, which leaves the pilot with only the little air left inside for more than 10 kilometres per race. Often after breaking the seals, the pilots are on the verge of unconsciousness and have to be aided when exiting the vehicle.

After putting the Varna bicycle to multiple tests via aerodynamic tunnel, the scientists at the British Columbia University came out with a report that declared Varna the most perfect human-made aerodynamic form.
And the most fascinating fact is none of the technology and science that determined that fact was used in the creation of Varna.