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Science & Technology

First ever 'solid state' plane takes flight

By T.K. Randall
November 22, 2018 · Comment icon 6 comments

A still from footage of the test plane in flight. Image Credit: MIT / YouTube / Nature Video
An aircraft with no moving parts has successfully flown a distance of 60 meters using 'ionic wind' technology.
The experimental model plane, which was developed by a team of researchers at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, uses an electric field to generate charged nitrogen ions which are expelled from the back of the aircraft to produce thrust.

"I was a big fan of Star Trek, and at that point I thought that the future looked like it should be planes that fly silently, with no moving parts - and maybe have a blue glow," said lead study author Steven Barrett, an aeronautics professor at MIT.

"So I started looking into what physics might make flight with no moving parts possible."
In the future, ionic wind technology could be used to power aircraft that are much cleaner and quieter than those with conventional propulsion systems.

"It's clearly very early days: but the team at MIT have done something we never previously knew was possible in using accelerated ionised gas to propel an aircraft," said Professor Guy Gratton.

"Aeronautical engineers around the world are already trying hard to find ways to use electric propulsion, and this technology will offer something else that in the future may allow manned and unmanned aircraft to be more efficient, and non-polluting."

Source: The Guardian | Comments (6)

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Recent comments on this story
Comment icon #1 Posted by RoofGardener 6 years ago
I'm guessing this uses the same principle as the Dyson Air Multiplier fan ?   
Comment icon #2 Posted by Gecks 6 years ago
Presuming his technology can be upscaled... to what degree I dont know. But Im guessing you will need a system to launch the craft. Perhaps a giant sling shot angry birds style. But then you need to slow it and stop it as well.
Comment icon #3 Posted by Jon the frog 6 years ago
Interesting stuff, don't know the trust/weight ratio for now but it look pretty low, lol. But everything need to start somewhere !
Comment icon #4 Posted by BorizBadinov 6 years ago
This has been mulled about for quite some time. The problem has always been weight of the power source was greater than lift capacity. There were flyers built but always tethered to a ground based power source. This is quite interesting, but the question indeed is will it scale enough to be used effectively?
Comment icon #5 Posted by Nzo 6 years ago
That is just fascinating stuff! Now all they have to do is get a 20 million dollar grant to come up with a super powerful solid state thruster. Maybe have multiple points on a radial axes that funnels the air from low compression to higher compression like a jet engine? It cant be to difficult for those geniuses at MIT! BEEF it up and see how much thrust can be generated. This is research I love. It takes what we know and applies it.  I hope they see the efficacy of this research and someone who is competent continues the research and gets grants for it.
Comment icon #6 Posted by Ozymandias 6 years ago
Theoretically interesting, but not practical. This experimental model plane was launched off a ramp and while it is true that it did move at something like 17 km/hr for over 50m using an 'ionic wind'  and an initial momentum off the ramp, this level of thrust is not anywhere sufficient to generate the amount of lift needed to get a substantially larger craft into the air and keep it there. All aircraft  need a minimum velocity of air flow over an aerofoil - their wings - to cancel their own weight under gravity and keep them aloft. This model could not keep itself aloft and did not perform m... [More]

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