Golf balls have long been dimpled to increase speed.
Golf balls have long been dimpled to increase speed.Getty

Researchers believe they are edging closer to developing a car whose surface changes to increase speed.

The team at Massachusetts Institute of Technology have created a 'smorph', or smart morphable surface, which changes from being smooth to being wrinkled like a golf ball at the touch of a button.

They believe that by applying the smorph surface to panels of a car they would be able to increase speed and fuel efficiency.

Since the 19th century, gold balls have been dimpled to increase their speed.

Dimpled surfaces hold the airflow of moving objects closer for longer, reducing the turbulence behind the ball, the main force dragging back the speed of blunt objects.

Although golf ball panels may help cars driving at slower speeds, for example in urban areas, when driving at higher speed it has the reverse effect.

The smorph technology though allows the panel to alter its texture depending on the speed of the vehicle. It features a stiff outer skin and a soft inner skin.

Using the same processes that turn plums into prunes, when the pressure on the inner skin is lowered the outer skin shrinks, dimpling the surface.

Pedro Reis, an assistant professor of mechanical engineering and civil and environmental engineering at MiT, said: "That reversibility is why it's interesting: you can switch the drag-reducing effect on and off, and tune it."