Ion Drive: MIT engineers fly a Star Trek-inspired plane without any moving parts Trending Information Trending Information

Sunday, November 25, 2018

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

Star Trek-inspired plane

Ion Drive

MIT team takes Star Trek as inspiration for silent, electrically-powered experimental aircraft

Science fiction creators have imagined new forms of propulsion to drive space and aircraft through the atmosphere and consumes. Many have turned to the concept of ion drive, where a stream of charged particles is expelled from the rear of the craft and pushes it forward in accordance with Newton’s third law of motion.
Some 100 years after the first airplane took flight, 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.
But now, MIT scientists have built and flown the first-ever Star Trek-inspired plane with no moving parts, paving way for quieter, simpler aircraft with no combustion emissions and, really it's a miracle.
Instead of propellers or turbines, the light aircraft is powered by an 'ionic wind' - a silent but mighty flow of ions, which generates enough thrust to propel the plane over a sustained, steady flight.
Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) engineers on Wednesday described successful flight tests at an indoor campus gymnasium of the unmanned airplane powered by ion wind propulsion, also called electro-aerodynamic thrust.
Electro-aerodynamic thrust - a physical principle that was first identified in the 1920s, describes a wind, or thrust, that can be produced when a current is passed between a thin and thick electrode.
If enough voltage is applied, the air in between the electrodes can produce enough thrust to propel a small aircraft.

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About the Star Trek-inspired plane

1. The aircraft, called Version 2 EAD Airframe, or V2, weighs over two kilograms and has a five-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.
2. 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.
3. The fuselage (a tan compartment in front) of the plane holds a stack of lithium-polymer batteries.
4. Unlike turbine-powered planes, the aircraft does not depend on fossil fuels to fly, according to the study published in the journal Nature.
5. The new design is completely silent, unlike propeller-driven drones.
6. The researchers conducted 11 test flights in which V2 flew about 200 feet (60 meters), typically flying less than 6-1/2 feet (2 meters) off the ground.
7. The plane, defined as a solid-state machine because it has no moving parts, was built to be as light as possible using materials like carbon-fiber, balsa wood, a plastic called polystyrene, shrink-wrap plastic and Kevlar.


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