The silent, lightweight aircraft doesn’t depend on fossil fuels or batteries
Since the first airplane took flight over 100 years ago, virtually every aircraft in the sky has flown with the help of moving parts such as propellers, turbine blades, and fans, which are powered by the combustion of fossil fuels or by battery packs that produce a persistent, whining buzz.
Now MIT engineers have built and flown the first-ever plane with no moving parts. Instead of propellers or turbines, the light aircraft is powered by an “ionic wind” — a silent but mighty flow of ions that is produced aboard the plane, and that generates enough thrust to propel the plane over a sustained, steady flight.
Unlike turbine-powered planes, the aircraft does not depend on fossil fuels to fly. And unlike propeller-driven drones, the new design is completely silent.
“This is the first-ever sustained flight of a plane with no moving parts in the propulsion system,” says Steven Barrett, associate professor of aeronautics and astronautics at MIT. “This has potentially opened new and unexplored possibilities for aircraft which are quieter, mechanically simpler, and do not emit combustion emissions.”
He expects that in the near-term, such ion wind propulsion systems could be used to fly less noisy drones. Further out, he envisions ion propulsion paired with more conventional combustion systems to create more fuel-efficient, hybrid passenger planes and other large aircraft.
Barrett and his team at MIT have published their results today in the journal Nature.
Barrett says the inspiration for the team’s ion plane comes partly from the movie and television series, “Star Trek,” which he watched avidly as a kid. He was particularly drawn to the futuristic shuttlecrafts that effortlessly skimmed through the air, with seemingly no moving parts and hardly any noise or exhaust.
“This made me think, in the long-term future, planes shouldn’t have propellers and turbines,” Barrett says. “They should be more like the shuttles in ‘Star Trek,’ that have just a blue glow and silently glide.”
About nine years ago, Barrett started looking for ways to design a propulsion system for planes with no moving parts. He eventually came upon “ionic wind,” also known as electroaerodynamic thrust — a physical principle that was first identified in the 1920s and describes a wind, or thrust, that can be produced when a current is passed between a thin and a thick electrode. If enough voltage is applied, the air in between the electrodes can produce enough thrust to propel a small aircraft.
For years, electroaerodynamic thrust has mostly been a hobbyist’s project, and designs have for the most part been limited to small, desktop “lifters” tethered to large voltage supplies that create just enough wind for a small craft to hover briefly in the air. It was largely assumed that it would be impossible to produce enough ionic wind to propel a larger aircraft over a sustained flight.
“It was a sleepless night in a hotel when I was jet-lagged, and I was thinking about this and started searching for ways it could be done,” he recalls. “I did some back-of-the-envelope calculations and found that, yes, it might become a viable propulsion system,” Barrett says. “And it turned out it needed many years of work to get from that to a first test flight.”
The team’s final design resembles a large, lightweight glider. The aircraft, which weighs about 5 pounds and has a 5-meter wingspan, carries an array of thin wires, which are strung like horizontal fencing along and beneath the front end of the plane’s wing. The wires act as positively charged electrodes, while similarly arranged thicker wires, running along the back end of the plane’s wing, serve as negative electrodes.
The fuselage of the plane holds a stack of lithium-polymer batteries. Barrett’s ion plane team included members of Professor David Perreault’s Power Electronics Research Group in the Research Laboratory of Electronics, who designed a power supply that would convert the batteries’ output to a sufficiently high voltage to propel the plane. In this way, the batteries supply electricity at 40,000 volts to positively charge the wires via a lightweight power converter.
Once the wires are energized, they act to attract and strip away negatively charged electrons from the surrounding air molecules, like a giant magnet attracting iron filings. The air molecules that are left behind are newly ionized, and are in turn attracted to the negatively charged electrodes at the back of the plane.
As the newly formed cloud of ions flows toward the negatively charged wires, each ion collides millions of times with other air molecules, creating a thrust that propels the aircraft forward.
The Latest on: Ionic wind
via Google News
The Latest on: Ionic wind
- Massage Open Release of the Ionic/Firebase Booking Appon November 23, 2020 at 11:43 am
The massage app we are presenting today belongs to the lifestyle/fitness category. In fact, it can be used inside a web browser as well but that is just a side fact and not of importance here. When it ...
- Will the physics add up for near-silent, ion-propelled cargo drones?on November 22, 2020 at 11:33 pm
Florida's Undefined Technologies claims it has managed to increase the thrust levels of ion propulsion systems to "unprecedented levels" with its "Air Tantrum" technology, enabling very quiet drones ...
- Dried fruit in the ion windon November 20, 2020 at 3:40 pm
Among other things, there are fans being used for this purpose. A new drying process developed at Empa, using ionic wind, now promises to make the drying of food more energy-efficient, faster and even ...
- A new understanding of ionic interactions with graphene and wateron November 20, 2020 at 9:35 am
A research team led by Northwestern University engineers and Argonne National Laboratory researchers have uncovered new findings into the role of ionic interaction within graphene and water.
- Versatile building blocks make structures with surprising mechanical propertieson November 19, 2020 at 9:31 am
Examples might include airplane wings or turbine blades that respond to changes in air pressure or wind speed by changing their overall shape. The findings, which detail the creation of a family of ...
- Drying fruit with ionic windon November 17, 2020 at 4:09 am
Among other things, fans are used for this purpose. A new drying process developed at Empa using ionic wind promises to make the non-thermal drying of food much more energy-efficient, faster and ...
- "Ionic wind" tech could revolutionize the fruit-drying industryon November 16, 2020 at 3:59 pm
It turns out, however, that the use of "ionic wind" for fruit-dehydration both saves energy and preserves nutrients. For most of us, the application of heat may seem like the obvious choice for ...
- LEGO unveils Colosseum, its largest set ever with over 9,000 pieceson November 13, 2020 at 1:40 pm
The stadium features a recreation of the three distinct stories from the Colosseum, with each story adorned with Doric, Ionic and Corinthian columns. The columns were faithfully recreated in LEGO ...
- Ionic Absorption Clays and Heavy Rare Earth Investment Opportunitieson November 4, 2020 at 4:00 pm
The ionic adsorption clays are a process enabling geology ... Then the mixed concentrates obtained go to the overcapacitized Chinese rare earth separation industry and they wind up ultimately in ...
via Bing News