Image Credit: Phys. Rev. Lett. 96, 064501 (2006)
The erratic, swirling fluid motion known as turbulence increases wind resistance, and airplane manufacturers go to great lengths to eliminate rough surfaces that promote it. Now, however, researchers have observed that carefully chosen roughness can actually suppress turbulence, at least in the lab. If they can repeat the effect in the real world, it could save billions of dollars in fuel costs each year.