Plasma and the next-generation of trailer aerodynamics

Pressure Systems International invests in next-generation trailer aerodynamics

SAN ANTONIO. With a July announcement that it was investing in new aerodynamic technology being developed by Plasma Stream Technologies, Tim Musgrave and the Pressure Systems International (P.S.I.) team began a new chapter for the company.

“We believe that Plasma Stream is the next great thing for the industry,” Musgrave, president of P.S.I., told Fleet Owner at a customer event last week in San Antonio. “We have to move forward; we have to help the industry; and we have to do our part.”

The deal includes a distribution agreement. Musgrave is confident the technologies that Plasma Stream is developing will help change the aerodynamic profile of fleets. And with trailers being incorporated into the Phase 2 greenhouse gas regulations, aerodynamic add-ons could be poised for a huge jump in adoption rates in the years to come as a way to meet the new rules.

Best known for its Meritor Tire Inflation System by P.S.I., the company is now branching out to other technologies. According to Musgrave, the Plasma Stream products will likely start hitting the market in late 2017 or early 2018. The first product will be tails, but ultimately skirts and other products could follow, Musgrave said.

Plasma Stream Technologies was founded by Jason Pottinger, CEO, and Pranay Bajjuri, co-founder/adviser. Based in Canada, the company is trying to disrupt the trucking industry by disrupting the air flow around trailers.

(Watch the video to learn more about Plasma Stream Technologies and its product)

According to Plasma Stream, the technology does not actually redirect air flow as currently happens with standard aerodynamic designs. Instead, plasma actuators actually “ionize” the air particles, which can be redirected in any direction desired.

Developed at the University of Notre Dame, the concept design features less weight. Skirts could weigh no more than 20 lbs., Musgrave said.

“Physical devices such as spoilers, bobtails, flow plates, and diverter tabs have been used to move the airflow in a desired direction,” Plasma Stream explains on its website. “Plasma actuators ionize the local airflow to induce a similar affect without the added structural components or weight. Even the best designed physical devices attempt to divert flow, unlike plasmas which modify the existing flow field.”

In a video, the company said that the product includes two conductors (electrodes) on either side of a dielectric material such as plastic. One of electrodes is exposed to air while the other is covered by the dielectric material. A high voltage alternating current is supplied to the electrodes. When the input voltage is high enough, it ionizes the air, which can be redirected away from the vehicle.

The plasma actuators placed on the rear of the trailer (they will not affect door opening and closing, whether that is swing doors or roll-up doors) could increase fuel savings by 7 to 10%, the company said.

Benefits of the technology, Plasma Stream Technologies, explains, include:

  • Small form factor (mm) allows the device to be placed at any desired location and can be combined with other passive devices.
  • Fully electronic with no moving parts
  • Having a fast time response for unsteady applications,
  • Having a very low mass which is especially important in applications with high g-loads being able to apply the actuators onto surfaces without the addition of cavities or holes
  •  Same technology can be used in adding drag to vehicles for road stability on a needed basis
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