Technology

MIT engineers fly a Star Trek-inspired plane without any moving parts

Inspired by Star Trek, MIT scientists successfully demonstrated that an airplane could fly silently using the "ionic wind", without the need for moving parts such as propellers, turbine blades, and fans.

The 'ionic wind' is based on the principle that a wind is generated in the air between two electrodes when the current passes between them. When enough voltage is applied, it is possible to produce a thrust with the "ionic wind" to propel a small aircraft without the need for moving parts. The phenomenon was first identified in the 1920s, but it has just been successfully applied in avionics.

In the drone model used for the study, the front part of the wing produces enough electric field in a part called the emitters to ionize the air – by removing the electrons from the molecules of air, thus charging them by creating positively charged ions. These ions are attracted by negatively charged structures at the other end of the device, called collectors. As the ions move toward the sensors, they collide with the air molecules and transfer energy to them, creating an airflow that propels the aircraft in the opposite direction. .

Following the successful protest, Steven Barrett, MIT aerospace engineer, told Reuters :

In the long run, I expect ultra-efficient and almost silent aircraft without control surfaces or lifts, propulsion systems in motion such as propellers or turbines, and emissions of direct combustion as in the fire. jet fuel.

It should be noted that this model does not seem easily scalable for large aircraft. The drone model of the MIT team could convert only 2.6% of its input energy into thrust. Much of the success is due to the team's computer-assisted design approach and the decision to use lightweight construction materials such as carbon fiber, balsa wood, a plastic called polystyrene, heat-shrinkable plastic and Kevlar. are ideal for building rugged commercial aircraft.

The current design was developed after tests with models of variable weight, scale and energy for thrust. Finally, a multi-story boat of 2.5 kilograms and a width of 5 meters flew after some false starts, but only for about 10 seconds.

The team was limited by the length of its test room, but the demonstration was sufficient to prove that ionic propulsion could withstand a much longer flight than it was possible to simply hovering.

The results of the flight test were published yesterday in the scientific journal Nature, and you can learn more about them here .

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