12 Mar
Plane Flies with No Moving Parts Plane Flies with No Moving Parts

Plane Flies with No Moving Parts

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Engineers at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) recently announced that they had built and flown the first-ever airplane without any moving parts. Rather than relying on turbines or propellers, the light craft receives its power from something termed an "ionic wind", described as a silent but powerful stream of ions that's made onboard the airplane, and which produces enough thrust to keep the plane flying over a steady, sustained trip.

The MIT craft also does not need fossil fuels to fly.

In a press release, Steven Barrett, associate professor of aeronautics and astronautics at MIT, said, “This has potentially opened new and unexplored possibilities for aircraft which are quieter, mechanically simpler, and do not emit combustion emissions.”

Barrett added that he anticipates that in the new term, ion and propulsion systems such as those used on the MIT craft will be utilized to fly drones in less noisy ways. Looking a little further down the road, he predicts that ion propulsion used in conjunction with combustion systems could result in the creation of hybrid passenger planes that are more fuel efficient.

The inspiration for the MIT plane reportedly came from the TV series and movie "Star Trek", which Barrett watched while growing up. Of particular interest to him: Craft on the screen that whizzed through the atmosphere with barely any exhaust or noise.

Specific ideas for using ion propulsion for flight came to Barrett one night while lying jet-lagged in a hotel room.

“I did some back-of-the-envelope calculations and found that, yes, it might become a viable propulsion system,” he said. “And it turned out it needed many years of work to get from that to a first test flight.”

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Read 36229 times Last modified on Thursday, 28 February 2019 08:55
Jim Lillie

Jim began writing for newspapers and designing for publishing companies at a time when both industries were just beginning to make the switch from manual to digital platforms. Jim lives in Boulder, Colorado with his teenage son.

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