MIT Researchers Create First-ever Plane With No Moving Parts

Posted: Nov 22 2018, 3:46pm CST | by , Updated: Nov 22 2018, 3:50pm CST, in Latest Science News


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MIT Researchers Create First-ever Plane With No Moving Parts
Credit: Steven Barrett/MIT

The new ion drive craft produces no harmful exhaust and makes no noise.

An aircraft with no moving parts has made its first flight. The craft developed by Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) does not depend on propellers or turbines. Instead, it uses ionic wind that generates enough thrust to propel the plane forward and ensures a sustained, steady flight.

“This is the first-ever sustained flight of a plane with no moving parts in the propulsion system,” said Steven Barrett, a 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.”

Since the first airplane took flight over 100 years ago, virtually every craft in the air flies with the help of moving parts such as propellers, turbine blades and fans and these parts are powered by fossil fuels or batteries that produce a persistent buzz.

For years, researchers looked for ways to design planes with no moving parts. But it was not until recently that they were able to develop a propulsion system which uses flow of ions to carry a large aircraft.

The new ion drive craft weighs about 5 pounds and has a small 5-meter wingspan. It is equipped with an array of thin wires that sends out charged particles or ions generated in the gap between two electrodes with sufficiently high voltage, creating a plane that effortlessly skim through the air.

In the trials, researchers flew the plane multiple times across the gymnasium in MIT’s indoor space. The plane covered a distance of 60 meters (the maximum distance within the gym) and repeated the similar performance during 10 test flights. Since the new ion aircraft involves seemingly no moving parts, it is lightweight, cheaper and hardly produces any noise or exhaust.

“This was the simplest possible plane we could design that could prove the concept that an ion plane could fly. It’s still some way away from an aircraft that could perform a useful mission. It needs to be more efficient, fly for longer, and fly outside,” said Barrett.

“It took a long time to get here. Going from the basic principle to something that actually flies was a long journey of characterizing the physics, then coming up with the design and making it work. Now the possibilities for this kind of propulsion system are viable.”

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<a href="/latest_stories/all/all/47" rel="author">Hira Bashir</a>
The latest discoveries in science are the passion of Hira Bashir (). With years of experience, she is able to spot the most interesting new achievements of scientists around the world and cover them in easy to understand reporting.




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